Psari Fournou me Ambelofia
Difficulty: Easy but takes non-working time
The traditional method of baking fish in Greece is called plaki, where fish such as sphyrida (grouper) or phagri (Couch’s sea bream) are cut up and baked with thinly sliced onions, garlic, tomatoes, herbs, celery, and carrots, perhaps wine, and sometimes cinnamon and even honey.
The famous turn-of-the-century French chef, Auguste Escoffier, laid claim to creating a similar preparation. The Greeks, on the other hand, as with the Turks, had long been using grape leaves for all kinds of food wrapping purposes. The secret to this preparation is, quite simply, very fresh fish.
[photo: Rowena, www.flickr.com/photos/62998620@N00/261301706/ ]
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Preparation Time: 2:35 hours
2 whole fish (such as 1 ½ to 2 pound redfish, red snapper, yellowtail, sea bass, or porgies), scaled, gutted, and cleaned with heads and tails on
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 to 16 large grape leaves (see Note below)
Lemon slices, fennel leaves, or sprigs fresh dill for garnish
1. Score the fish on both sides several times with a very sharp knife. Arrange the fish in a large glass or ceramic pan. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, thyme, dill, salt and pepper. Pour this marinade over the fish, cover with plastic wrap, and leave refrigerated for 2 hours, turning once.
2. In a small bowl or mortar, mash together the anchovies and butter and set aside at room temperature so it will spread easily.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
4. Drain the fish, pat dry with paper towels, and spread the anchovy butter on each side of the fish. Drain the grape leaves and unravel carefully so they don’t rip. Wrap the fish in the grape leaves. Lay 4 to 8 large grape leaves on the surface before you with the stem closest to you, and the rough side up. Cut off any remaining portion of the stem. Lay a fish over the bottom portion of the grape leaves and roll up. The head and tail should not be covered by the leaf. Arrange the fish in a large oiled baking pan and bake until the eyes of the fish are cloudy and white and the fish is firm, about 35 minutes. Serve garnished with the lemon slices and some chopped fennel or dill sprigs.
If using fresh grape leaves, boil them gently for 5 minutes. The jarred grape leaves in brine available in supermarkets do not need any preparation other than draining.