whole fish with lemon-fennel compote

styling by Catrine Kelty | photo by Keller + Keller

Lemon-Fennel Compote
2 large fennel bulbs, cored, trimmed, and thinly sliced
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
Pinch kosher salt

2 whole fish (red snapper or branzino), about 2 1/2-3 pounds total, scaled and gutted
Cooking spray, for greasing
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 handful fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley sprigs
1 handful fresh fennel fronds
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  1. Make compote. In a medium saucepan, add fennel, water, honey, lemon zest and juice, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until fennel is softened and most of liquid is gone, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse a few times until chunky. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.
  2. Allow fish to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  3. Pat fish completely dry with paper towels. Place on prepared baking sheet. Season inside of one fish with salt and pepper. Place half of lemon slices, parsley, and fennel sprigs inside of fish cavity and close. Rub outside of fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Tie with 3 pieces of butcher’s twine to keep filling inside of fish. Repeat with other fish.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until flesh is flaky and cooked through. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove and discard twine. Using a sharp knife, make a cut lengthwise along center line of flesh, then down front and back of fish (leave head and tail intact). Run knife under fillet to separate it from bone. Transfer fillet to a serving platter (it’s OK if fish comes off in large pieces). Continue until all of fillets are removed. Check for any bones and remove. Spoon compote over top of fish and serve.

Serves 6.