Dazzle at dinner with this roasted whole sea bass drizzled with a spicy pepper-infused oil and slivered garlic, which develops big flavors using unique ingredients. Also known as Mediterranean sea bass, the bronzini has a taste and texture that is similar to the red snapper. It is often served whole and filleted at tableside.
1 bronzini seabass (about 1 pound)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil, mild flavored
1 fresh lemon
1 fresh sprig rosemary
1 fresh lemon thyme
1 fresh sprig sage
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Syrian hot pepper paste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper plus 1 pinch for serving
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 oz shrimp shells and heads or crab shells (optional)
5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon parsley
1 pinch kosher salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
To make Piqui-piqui sauce:
1. In a small sauce pan add oil, Syrian hot pepper paste, tomato paste, crushed red pepper (and optional shrimp/crab shells). Add pinch of salt and mix well.
2. Heat oil mixture to 210-225*F.
3. Allow oil to gently bubble for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove from heat, allow to cool to luke warm and strain through coffee filter.
5. Reserve infused oil.
To Make Fish:
1. Cut lemon in 1/4" slices and then cut each slice in half. Make about 10 pieces and set aside.
2. Cut garlic cloves into thin slices and set aside.
3. Finely mince parsley and set aside.
4. Scale, gut and remove gills. Remove fins if desired. (Ask your fishmonger to do this at time of purchase.)
5. Pat dry sea bass and gently score three times on each side.
6. Lightly oil entire fish with the olive oil. Use more if needed.
7. With dry hands, evenly sprinkle salt, pepper and aleppo spice on and inside the whole fish.
8. Insert sprigs of herbs into belly cavity and trim off any bits that do not fit.
9. Gently place 3-4 slices of lemon on top of herb sprigs inside the fish.
10. If possible, place lemon slices in the gill slits and in the scores previously cut into the fish. If not, then layer remaining slices on top of fish.
11. Place on a well greased baking sheet and roast in a convection oven on a low fan at 375* for 15-20 minutes, or until flesh turns opaque-white (140*F internal temperature for 15 seconds). Allow fish to rest 5 minutes.
12. While fish is resting, heat 1-2 ounces of Piqui-Piqui oil in a sauté pan and allow to lightly smoke.
13. Add garlic slices and any remaining lemon slices. Stir and lightly brown garlic.
14. Add lemon juice, a pinch of crushed red pepper, parsley, salt and butter. Remove from heat and whisk to incorporate.
15. Place the fish on a large plate or platter and spoon Piqui-piqui sauce over fish.
16. Serve with your favorite artisan bread to better enjoy the Piqui-piqui sauce.