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Roasted Branzino With Tomatoes and Olives

Time 50 minutes
Yields Serves 2 to 4
Roasted Branzino With Tomatoes and Olives
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times; prop styling by Kate Parisian)
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When buying fish for this recipe, look for two fish that are as similar in weight as possible to keep the cooking times consistent. Ask your fishmonger to gut and scale the fish but leave the head and tail on for a dramatic presentation.

From the story: ‘Escape’ at the end of the year with these celebratory holiday dishes

1

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Pat the fish dry on both sides with a paper towel. Season lightly with salt and pepper inside and out. Stuff each fish with half the basil leaves and half the lemon slices.

2

Place a large skillet wide enough to fit both fish side by side over medium heat. Pour in ¼ cup olive oil, then carefully lay both fish in the oil. Cook, undisturbed, until the skin is browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Using a long, thin spatula, carefully flip each fish to the other side and cook until browned and crisp on the opposite side, 3 minutes more. Using the spatula, transfer the fish to a rimmed baking sheet.

3

Pour the remaining ¾ cup olive oil in the skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper and chile flakes and cook, stirring, until the peppers soften slightly, about 3 minutes more. Pour in the wine, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the mixture has reduced by one-third, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, olives and capers, reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce, stirring often, until the tomatoes have softened, about 5 minutes.

4

Turn off the heat, then carefully return the fish to the skillet, spooning some of the sauce over each fish. Cover with a lid or a sheet of foil and bake for 8 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until the fish is fully cooked through and the sauce is reduced and thick, 5 minutes more. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, drizzle with more olive oil and garnish with parsley before serving.

Adapted from Jonathan Melendez.