Baked porgy with French basil sauce
The key to this recipe is to get the oven very hot before starting to cook the fish so that it will be crisp on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth tender on the inside. How much to buy? A 1-pound fish serves one person generously, while a 1-1/2 pound fish makes two medium servings. For easy handling at home, have the fishmonger — or the fisherman! — gut and scale the fish.
As for the sauce, pistou is the French version of pesto. It’s a blend of basil leaves, olive oil and garlic, and – unlike the Italian variety – is made without pine nuts or parmesan.
2 fresh porgies or similar fish, about 1-1/4 pound (500 grams) each
1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil
1 bunch fresh basil
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
1/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to gas mark 8 (450 F, 230 C).
Rinse the fish under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels, inside and out. Insert a sprig of fresh basil into the cavity of each fish.
Use 1 tbsp. of the olive oil to coat a large baking pan, preferably ceramic or glass. Coat the fish with a little more oil, and place in the pan.
When the oven is very hot, bake the fish for about 20 minutes.
While the fish is baking, make the pistou. Place the rest of the basil in a blender with the remaining olive oil, the garlic halves and the salt and pepper. Blend to obtain a smooth, emulsified sauce.
Cut off the ends of the lemon, cut in half once lengthwise and once crosswise. Set aside.
Remove the fish from the oven when the outside is crispy and the flesh is no longer translucent. You can check on this by peeking inside the cavity. A larger fish may take more than 20 minutes, and a small one may be done in 15 minutes, so check a couple of times while baking.
Serve the fish on a platter with a couple tablespoons of basil sauce drizzled on top, accompanied by the lemon pieces. Bring the rest of the sauce to the table in a small bowl. Serves 2-4.