I love this tangy roasted fish. It is so easy to make and delicious to eat, in fact it is the perfect simple meal, really tasty and not at all fishy. This recipe is... inspired by an old French ‘menagère’ style regional fish cookbook, aimed at young wives (which I was at the time) that I bought on the street in Paris. I still have it. It taught me to lose my fear of cooking fish, and I hope this recipe will do the same for you. It will boost your confidence with fish and tickle the trickiest taste buds. Try it.
Preheat the oven to 425°F with a metal baking sheet set on a high shelf. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit the sheet and set aside.
With a sharp knife, make 3 diagonal slashes across the skin side of each fish fillet. Take care to just slash the skin and not cut the fish into pieces. Set aside.
On a cutting board, finely chop the rosemary leaves and garlic together. When they are medium-fine, add the salt and start chopping that in. Lastly, chop in the olive oil until you have a rough paste. Smear the paste over the skin side of the fish, rubbing it deep into the cuts you made in the skin. Smear any leftover paste onto the flesh side.
Take the hot baking sheet from the oven, quickly cover with the reserved parchment paper and set the fish on top, skin side down to brown it. Squeeze lemon juice over the fillets and bake in the oven on a high shelf until the fish is just done, 8-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet. Serve skin side up with a side of roasted potatoes.
Always remember that fish will continue to cook on the hot surface once it’s out of the oven so if it’s a little underdone just leave it for a minute before serving. If it’s just right, serve it quickly.
You can roast a small whole fish this way instead of fillets. Get the fishmonger to scale and clean the fish. Slash each side as above and rub in the herb paste. Rub any leftovers into the body cavity along with the lemon rind once you’ve spritzed the fish with the juice. Cook for 20 minutes or until the flesh flakes behind the head. And you don’t need to preheat the baking sheet.