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Leek and Fennel-Stuffed Whole Fish with Mojo de Ajo

By Michelle Bernstein From Moveable Feast Season 6, Ep.5

Servings: 8 to 10

To really impress your guests, present this fish whole, nestled on a bed of roasted tomatoes. It’s a guaranteed showstopper and much simpler to prepare than it looks.


For the fish

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 lb. medium tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick (about 10)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced lengthwise (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise (about 2-3/4 cups), 1 tsp. finely chopped fronds reserved
  • 1 large leek, white and light-green parts only, cut in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1-1/4 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 4-lb. hogfish or Arctic char, gutted and scaled, with head and tail on
  • Flaky sea salt, for serving
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

For the mojo de ajo

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline
  • 1 cup mixed citrus segments, such as oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 6 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 1 medium jalapeño, sliced paper thin, preferably on a mandoline (about 1/2 oz.)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro



Make the fish

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 425°F.
  • Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Brush the foil with 1-1/2 Tbs. oil. Line the sheet with the tomatoes in a single layer, season generously with salt and pepper, and set aside.
  • Add 1 Tbs. oil and the butter to a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the onion, and stir occasionally until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the sliced fennel and leek, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft and translucent but not browning, about 6 minutes more (if the mixture begins to brown, lower the heat to medium and stir in 1 to 2 Tbs. water).
  • Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the wine evaporates, 4 to 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add the mascarpone and heavy cream, and stir until well combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the zest, dill, tarragon, fennel fronds, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Let cool to room temperature.
  • Pat the fish dry inside and out with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper the inside of the cavity. Spoon the leek-fennel mixture into the cavity, and tie the fish lightly with kitchen twine. Transfer to the bed of tomatoes, and brush the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. oil over the fish. Roast until the fish turns golden brown in places and the eyes turn opaque, 45 to 50 minutes.

Make the mojo

  • Put the oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat, and cook, stirring, until the garlic just begins to turn golden on the edges, about 1-1/2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl to cool.
  • Stir in the citrus segments, juices, and jalapeño. Season to taste with salt. Just before serving, add the cilantro, and stir to combine.

Finish and serve

  • Remove the fish from the oven, and gently baste with some of the juices from the pan. Let rest on the pan for 10 minutes, then remove the string, and transfer to a large serving platter.  Serve with the Mojo de Ajo, flaky sea salt, and lemon wedges on the side.
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Reviews (1 review)

  • framboise75 | 03/23/2019

    I know... It's annoying when people change recipes and review, but I made this for two people and used two branzino, using the same ingredients and methods, but half. The filling is so good creamy and tangy. Mine all turned out pretty juicy, so next time, I'd make some rice to catch that deliciousness. Next time, I'd also really make sure the fennel onion mixture was really cooked down before I added the cream etc. It was a hit!

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