have you ever put your finger in a fish's mouth? if you haven't, you really should try it - its the weirdest feeling imaginable.  ok, now that we've established that, lets move on to this entree.  

my philosophy of buying fish is that one should seek out the freshest fish first and foremost and then decide between different species second.  here's a great opportunity to make friends with your local fishmonger and ask him/her to teach you how to pick out great fish.  

i chose whole branzino, a seawater fish found in europe.  it has a light and flaky texture and a modest taste of its own.

(click on any of the photos for the full recipe)

i asked my fishmonger to descale it and cut off the fins.  look for fish that have clear eyes, smooth and glistening skin, and then look at their gills - they should be a red color - if you see brown, that probably means that they aren't fresh.

i gutted the fish myself, which is remarkably easy.  you just take a small knife and cut the fish down the middle from below the gills to the end of its belly then wash out the insides.

pat your fish dry and let it sit.  take advantage of this time to prep the vegetables and the spice rub for the mix.  for this dish, i used fennel, lemon, shallots, chives, dill, and garlic.  

the spice rub consists of salt, red chili powder, black pepper, clove powder, and coriander powder.  

next i rub the fish with the spice rub and surround it with some butter, sliced fennel, and chopped shallots.  i lay the dill on and around the fish next.  

now toss the roasting pan in the oven, i did 400F for about 20 minutes, with a flip about 15 min in.  now comes the exciting part.  i took the pan out of the oven and placed it on the stove.  i added some black currant juice to deglaze the pan and cooked on high for just a few minutes on each side.  the black currant juice will help balance the flavors and will give a slight amount of sweetness to the dish.  

garnish the fish with the shallots and fennel from the pan.  serve the fish whole and eat it with your hands to maximize the fun.

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