I have to be honest with you, I usually associate oven baked whitefish with bland, boring flavors. It’s healthy, good for you, nourishing food, but often super unexciting. This recipe has changed this line of thinking for me in a big way. My wife, who got this recipe from her mom, makes killer oven baked white fish. It’s so delicious that even the pickiest eaters in our household, our kids, wipe their plates clean. They don’t even leave the onions behind. This dish is also low carb, paleo friendly and super healthy. It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?
Start with good fish. The kind that you like and the kind that doesn’t have too many bones such as Cod, Haddock or Turbot. Tons of little, annoying bones can really ruin your enjoyment of this dish. We are fortunate enough to live close by a little fish store that often carries very reasonably priced exotic and somewhat exotic fish. In this cook we are using Spigola (Mediterranean sea bass) and Daurade (Mediterranean sea brim). I’ll let you in on a little secret, I did not know these fish before we bought them, nor can I remember their names – I had to write them down. I don’t even remember which one is which – is the fatter one Spigola or Daurade? I guess it’s not so important – they both taste absolutely fantastic and have very few bones. Kudos to our fishmonger for recommending these to us.
What makes the fish in this recipe absolutely delicious is marination in onion and lemon juice, use of aromatic herbs and the way it is cooked. Don’t skimp on onions. Yes, you have to use one large onion per one mid-size fish. Sounds like too much, but there is a good reason for it. Onions hold lots of water. When you bake your fish you want it to stay moist. The onion bed will make sure the fish gets lots of moisture by releasing steam during the bake. Aromatic elements from the onions, lemon slices, dill and rosemary will make the fish so fragrant that you will be salivating long before it’s cooked. Last step is quick but very crucial – broiling. Broiling crisps up the top of the fish and gives it a beautiful deep golden brown color and flavors of a pan-fried fish, but without all the added grease and fat. A must try recipe!
- 4 medium size whitefish (for example Cod, Haddock or Turbot)
- 4 large onions
- 1 bunch fresh dill
- 4-8 rosemary sprigs
- 1 lemon
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp + 2 pinches per fish black pepper
- 1 tsp + 2 pinches per fish tsp kosher salt
- Prepare your fish: remove guts, scale it and trim tails and fins. Better yet, ask your fishmonger to do it for you. It's free!
- Peel the onions and slice into half-rings. Place the onions into a large bowl and give them a few squeezes with your hands just hard enough to release some juice. Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze the juice from one half of the lemon and add to the onions. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and mix well with your hand, gently squeezing the onions as you mix to release more juice.
- Put a couple of pinches of salt and black pepper on each fish and rub all over, include the belly cavity.
- Place the fish, belly up, into a container. Make sure the fish stays in that position otherwise the juices will run off. Stuff the onions and with the juice into the fish cavities (belly and gill area) just enough for the cavities to be able to close back up. Do not over-stuff. Cover and marinate in a refrigerator for 30 minutes. Set the remaining onions aside.
- Preheat oven to 355F (180C).
- On a large baking sheet lined with foil, make 4 equal beds of onions, each about the size of the fish. Spread fresh dill over the onion beds, then place rosemary sprigs on top. Place the fish on top of the onion and herb beds. Drizzle some olive oil on top of each fish.
- Slice the remaining half-lemon and place the slices around the fish.
- Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.
- Remove the foil, switch the oven to broil and continue cooking for additional 3-5 minutes or until the fish acquires a nice brown color. You want to keep a close eye on the fish during broil as it can go from nice deep golden brown color to black char quickly.