Grilled or Baked Branzino in Lemon

For The Fish:

  • 4 (1¼-pound) branzinos, gutted and scaled
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    4 lemons

  • 4 tablespoons canola or olive oil, plus more for the (optional) grill

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  • For The Dressing

  • 1 preserved lemon, finely chopped
    1 garlic clove, finely grated
    ⅓ cup olive oil
    1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

branzino grilled.jpg
  • FOR GRILLING

  • 1. Heat a well-oiled grill to medium-high heat.

  • 2. Thinly slice 2 lemons and divide the slices between the 4 fish, inserting the slices where the fish is open from cleaning (typically from the head to the middle of the belly), seasoning with salt and pepper in there while you’re at it. You can tie the fish closed with butcher’s twine if you like, but the lemon slices should stay put. Rub the outside of the fish with the canola oil and season with salt and pepper. 

  • 3. Once the grill is as hot as it’s going to get, place the fish on the grill with the backbone facing you (as opposed to the open side)—it’s easier to flip it from this side. And now don’t touch it for 8 to 10 minutes. After 8 minutes, you can try to flip the fish to see if the skin is charred, puffed, and crispy (it should be). If the fish is ready to be flipped, it will release easily; if it doesn’t, give it a few more minutes.

  • 4. Once the fish is ready to be flipped, take a large, wide spatula (a fish spatula works really well here, but so does a large grilling spatula) and place it under the fish, just like you’re flipping a pancake. From there, flip it so that the open side is now facing you. Continue to grill until the other side is also charred and crispy and the fish is cooked through, another 8 to 10 minutes.

  • 5. Meanwhile, halve the remaining 2 lemons crosswise and throw them on the grill, cut-side down, until they’re charred and starting to caramelize, about 5 minutes.

  • 6. Serve the fish with the preserved lemon relish and roasted lemons alongside.


  • FOR ROASTING

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

  • 2. Thinly slice 1 lemon and divide the slices between the 2 fish, inserting the slices where the fish is open from cleaning (typically from the head to the middle of the belly), seasoning with salt and pepper in there while you’re at it. You can tie the fish closed with butcher’s twine if you like, but the lemon slices should stay put. Rub the outside of the fish with the canola oil and season with salt and pepper. 

  • 3. Place the prepared fish on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet (or on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet). Halve the remaining 2 lemons and put them on the rack, cut-side down. Roast, without turning, until the fish is cooked through and the skin is starting to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. (The oven provides more even heat than the grill, so there’s no need to flip them.)

  • 4. Serve the fish with the preserved lemon relish and roasted lemons alongside. 

Dressing:

Combine the preserved lemon, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.