Weekend Cooking: Experimenting with Whole Fish

Weekend Cooking, Cooking books, food books
This post is part of fellow book blogger, Beth Fish Reads‘, weekly meme called Weekend Cooking.

I’ve been taking my four year old son to the local Farmer’s Market for the last couple of weeks. Outside of our Fish of the Month Club from The Lobster Place, the Farmer’s Market is where we get most of our fish. My son loves to look at all the different fish choices. He was sad that clownfish (i.e. Nemo) wasn’t an option, but really excited about the “fish with the heads” (i.e. whole fish). In fact, he demands that I buy only “fish with heads” now.

So, we’ve been experimenting a bit with cooking these puppies and they’re actually much easier than you would think…as long as you don’t mind having a fish head on your dinner plate! Both the recipes we liked just involved stuffing the fish with some citrus and herbs and baking it. Simple, right?!

From the Farmer’s Market , we’ve tried sea bass (yay!) and porgy (nay). And, from our Fish of the Month Club, we tried rainbow trout (yay!).

Whole Sea Bass

Rosemary and Lime Roasted Sea Bass
Link to this recipe on Foodnetwork.com

1 whole sea bass (about 5 pounds), scaled and cleaned with head and tail intact

Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced into thin rings
1 lime, cut into thin rounds
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Dried rosemary branches for roasting (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse the fish well under cold running water (to make sure the cavity is clean of any entrails) and pat it dry. With a sharp knife, make 4 deep diagonal incisions down to the bone on each side of the fish. Sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper. Lay the onion rings, lime rounds, and rosemary sprigs in the cavity. Close the fish. Insert the garlic slivers into the incisions.

Tie the fish together in 3 or 4 places with butcher’s twine to close the cavity. Place the fish on a bed of rosemary branches (or a rack) set in a large roasting pan. Rub the fish with the olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the fish until completely cooked through, about 40 minutes.

Transfer the fish to a large platter and remove the twine. You can also serve this fish on a bed of spinach or arrugula leaves with a side of warm orzo tossed with a little chopped fresh parsley and olive oil.

How to eat: peel back the skin and eat the flesh of the meat off the bone. Once you’ve eaten the first side of meat, simply lift the skeleton up and you can eat the second side without flipping the fish.

*The original recipe called for a side of mediterranean salsa, but the ingredient list for the salsa was way too long, so I left it out. And it was still delicious!

Whole Rainbow Trout
Whole Rainbow Trout Baked in Foil

Whole Rainbow Trout Baked in Foil
Courtesy of The Lobster Place (originally appearing in the New York Times)

Extra virgin olive oil
2 small rainbow trout, boned (The Lobster Place kindly boned our trout for us)
Freshly ground pepper
2 lemons (1 sliced, 1 cut into wedges)
4 fresh tarragon or dill sprigs (I used tarragon), or 2 rosemary sprigs
Chopped fresh tarragon, dill or parsley for serving

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut two sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil or four sheets of lighter foil into squares that are three inches longer than your fish. If using lighter foil, make two double thick squares. Oil the dull side of the foil with olive oil, and place a trout, skin side down, on each square. Season both sides with salt and pepper, and open them out flat. Place two tarragon or dill sprigs (or one rosemary sprig) and two lemon slices down the middle of each fish, and fold the two sides together. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil over each fish.

Making sure that the trout are in the middle of each square, fold up the foil loosely, grabbing at the edges and crimping them together tightly to make a packet. Place on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, checking one of the packets after 10 minutes. The flesh should be opaque and pull apart easily when tested with a fork.

Place each packet on a plate. Carefully cut across the top to open it, taking care not to let the steam from inside the packet burn you. Gently remove the fish from the packet, and pour the juices over it. Sprinkle with fresh tarragon, dill, or parsley. Serve, passing the lemon wedges.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Beth F wrote:

    We used to cook trout in foil over a fire — streamside, freshly caught. I wonder why stopped doing that. Hummm. Love the where’s Nemo at the market issue. Made me laugh! My grandfather loved eating fish heads. It used to gross me out when I was very little.

    Posted 4.18.15 Reply
  2. That trout looks so fresh and delicious.

    Posted 4.18.15 Reply
  3. Kay wrote:

    I love rainbow trout. Grew up eating it when my grandparents lived in Colorado. Yum! However, let’s talk about fish heads – um, not for me, thanks. I feel like it looks at you. I like my fish to have no head, no tail, no eyes to stare. LOL

    Your recipes look delicious. I need to be less afraid of cooking fish at home. I love eating it out.

    Posted 4.18.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Colorado trout is so yummy! I used to have it with breakfast when I lived out West for a bit.

      Posted 4.18.15 Reply
  4. I generally don’t care for fish but every post you’ve done about your meals from the Fish of the Month Club has made me seriously reconsider. All the recipes look so fresh and delicious. I’m kind of envious that your 4 year old insists on fish with the heads on! Sounds like he’s got some adventurous eater tendencies.

    Posted 4.18.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Fresh is definitely the key to liking fish…don’t even bother with it if it isn’t fresh! Hopefully he’ll be adventurous on the eating front – I’d love that! He also likes clams and raw oysters 🙂

      Posted 4.18.15 Reply
  5. Laurie C wrote:

    I was just listening to a Splendid Table podcast where guests Jane and Michael Stern were talking to Lynne about the Pie of the Month Club they belong to, which appeals to me more than the Fish of the Month, I’d have to say! But fresh fish cooked well always makes me wonder why I don’t eat fish more often, and these recipes sound great!

    Posted 4.18.15 Reply
  6. Tina wrote:

    I haven’t had trout in ages. Your dinner looks beautiful, looks like a restaurant!

    Posted 4.18.15 Reply
  7. I haven’t been game enough to cook whole fish – yet! I have smoked one. Cheers from Carole’s Chatter

    Posted 4.18.15 Reply
  8. Bellezza wrote:

    I know how to make an origami sea bass, but not a real one; yours looks so healthsome and delicious! I should eat more fish, cooked fresh with herbs as yours, instead of with chips as I ate in London.

    Posted 4.18.15 Reply
  9. Louise wrote:

    My son is a vegetarian and was from a very young age, so find it rather extraordinary that your son wants the fish with the head on. That trout looks particularly delicious. Although I do prefer to not have the heads left on.

    Posted 4.19.15 Reply
  10. Trish wrote:

    My parents do something similar with the fish that they catch in their lake but they put a thick coating of some type of flour mixture on top of the fish to make a crust after they’ve stuffed it. They don’t eat the crust but I guess it seals in the moisture? It is always alarming having a fish head on the table! LOL!

    Posted 4.19.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Yum – that sounds delicious! Could it be a salt crust? I’ve had that at a restaurant before…they crack the crust with a hammer to peel it off.

      Posted 4.19.15 Reply
  11. I can’t eat anything with the head still attached, I prefer my fish filtered and battered 🙂

    Happy cooking and booking,
    Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out

    Posted 4.20.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      That’a the Australia in you! I do love some fish & chips…but am horrible at frying, so never make them at home.

      Posted 4.20.15 Reply

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Join our mailing list to receive all new blog posts in one weekly email. Plus, news of special updates and offers!

You have Successfully Subscribed!