Whole Roast Fish with Lemon and Fennel

chilipepper rock fish

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This recipe is works well with rockfish, cod and branzino, which are all white-fleshed fish with a thick main backbone (which releases flavorful juices as it cooks) and very few bones in the flesh. We like to finish this with chimichurri (or a salsa verde) spooned on top, but it’s just as delicious without.

  • Author: Bruce Cole
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: seafood
  • Method: roast
  • Cuisine: American



For the fish

1 whole rockfish or branzino, 2 lbs, gutted and scaled

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 lemon thinly sliced, 4 slices cut in half

1 bunch fennel fronds

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

For the chimichurri

3/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped

3/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped (or substitute 1 tablespoon dried)

1/2 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar


FISH: Preheat the oven to 450°.

Put the fish on a baking sheet (we put ours atop a baking rack). Make 3-4 crosswise slashes down to the bone on each side of the fish. Season both sides generously with kosher salt, rubbing salt into each of the slashes.  Stuff each slash with 1/2 of a lemon slice and a couple sprigs of fennel. Stuff the cavity of the fish with remaining fennel and lemon slices.

Rub both sides of the fish with olive oil and shower with the sea salt and black pepper.

Roast for 20 minutes or until the flesh is 145ºF.

CHIMICHURRI: (adapted from the Gjelina cookbook)

Combine everything but the vinegar in a small bowl and set aside for flavors to meld, about 15 minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the vinegar and then spoon over the fish.


Sources for ordering whole fish in the SF Bay Area:

Water 2 Table

Two X Sea

The Sea Forager


Keywords: seafood, whole fish, rockfish, rock cod, branzino