This seems a bit beyond the basics but, when broken down, it’s really quite simple. And elegant. Total cooking time is less than one and a half hours, but the end product looks like so much more. The technique covered in this recipe is boning round fish through the back.
So break it down into three parts: preparing the puree, boning the fish, and assembling the final product….
Potato Puree (yields 4 cups)
A basic component, this can be the topping on a shepherd’s pie, baked in form as a side, our used as a stuffing.
- 5 small russet potatoes, chopped (about 1 ½ lb)
- 3 cloves garlic, halved
- 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp chives, chopped
- Salt & pepper to taste
Place potatoes and garlic in a steamer and season with salt and pepper. Steam for 10 minutes. The object is to partially cook the potatoes so that they can be pierced with a knife blade but are still stiff.
Remove the steamer tray and set in the sink to cool for 5 minutes. Do not rinse – you want the spice to permeate the potatoes. Place the veg in a food processor and pulse to break up potatoes. Add cream and blend until incorporated. Add egg and process until smooth but still stiff.
Remove the blade and work in the chives with a spatula. Then place the puree in a pastry sleeve or large freezer bag (clip a bottom corner off the freezer bag and it becomes a pastry sleeve).
Boning Round Fish through the Back
- Four 1 lb round fish (in this case Bronzini, a sea bass)
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- Salt to taste
This is a regular filleting technique, just from a different angle.
Place fish on its belly. Moving from front to back, cut on each side of the dorsal fin. Follow the line of the ribs with long, smooth strokes. All cuts should go in the same direction – front to back – until the filets are freed.
Using scissors, cut the backbone at the head and tail. When cutting at the head, cut all the way through both the spine and the tissue connecting the gills to the visceral tissue (AKA, the organs). Put your index finger into the opening at the head and pull out the backbone, ribs, and viscera. Use your fingers to clean out any organs that don’t pull free.
Cut the gills at top and bottom on each side, cut free the connecting tissue, and remove the gills. Cut off fins, rinse in cold water, place in a bowl, and rub with olive oil and salt.
Assembling Boned Bronzini Stuffed w/Potato Puree
Preheat oven to 450°F and get out a large ceramic cooking platter. In addition to the boned fish & potato puree you’ll need….
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine (I recommend sauvignon blanc)
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- Parsley sprigs
- Pepper and oregano to taste
Oil platter with olive oil, spread the onion over the cooking surface, and pour wine over it all. Sprinkle with parsley, oregano and pepper.
Arrange fish with on top of the onions belly down. Cut one corner of the freezer bag holding the puree and squeeze ¼ of contents into the cavity of each fish (this is why you want the puree to be stiff).
Place in the 450°F oven. As always, cooking time is 20 minutes per inch thickness of fish. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with Parsley sprigs and lemon wedges.