Stuffed bronzini

The flavor of the paste combined with the fresh, crunchy toppings and sweet sauce was complex yet very light. The fish was fall-off-the-bone tender and overall, my taste tester says this was the perfect filling summer meal. Plus, it was simple to make! 

Top tips from me:
1) First and foremost, the most important thing is getting the freshest fish possible. I was lucky and was gifted this beautiful bronzini, already scaled and gutted, from the Lucky Danger team themselves. I would recommend checking out your local fish market, like the Wharf’s Municipal Fish Market. The team’s work to clean the fish did save me a lot of time (and another bloopers reel), so maybe splurge for the cleaning service offered at the Wharf.
2) If you need to clean the fish yourself and have not done so before, make sure you find a video or guide easy for you to follow and stick to it. This one gave me a clue on what that process looks like.
3) You can buy fried shallots pre-made but I had a shallot in so I decided to make them myself. I followed this Epicurious recipe and they came out deliciously crispy. 
4) If your food processor is a bit off-peak like mine, add a drizzle more oil until it does form more of a paste than just a rough pesto.
5) Make sure to add enough oil to the pan and cooking spray on the fish to avoid the skin sticking and getting ripped off. I added quite  bit and it still ripped off when flipping and such, so just be extra extra careful.
6) Some of the filling will fall out when cooking the fish but don’t worry about that.
7) Make sure you vaguely measure your largest frying pan before transferring the fish to it. I made the mistake of not doing that, which led to my fish forming a crescent shape as I tried to force it to fit the pan.
8) Be careful when you pour the remaining oil onto the fish before serving. It will likely splatter a bit and will still be hot!

Time:
Overall, this took me about an hour and a half start to finish, keeping in mind that I did stop to take photos. If you’re cooking this like a normal person and the fish is already cleaned, then this would definitely take you under an hour, if not 30 minutes with pre-made shallots, too. This could easily be a meal for one or two or three. Depends on how hungry you all are!

Ingredients
1 bronzini, scaled, gutted and rinsed — 1 stalk lemongrass, crushed and chopped — 1 bunch cilantro — 4 cloves garlic — 1 tbsp ginger rough chopped — 4 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil, half for filling and half for frying — 2 tbsp fried shallots — 2 stalks scallions, julienne — 4 mint leaves, chiffonade cut — 1 tsp + 1 tbsp rice vinegar — 1 tsp sesame oil — 2 tbsp oyster sauce —  1/4 cup soy sauce — 1/4 cup water — 1 tbsp sugar

Instructions:

1. Make sure the fish’s belly is open after gutting. Make 3 diagonal cuts into the fish on each side of the fish.

Season lightly with salt and pepper on inside and outside of fish. Set aside for now.

2. Place lemongrass, 1/2 of the bunch of cilantro, garlic, ginger and 2 tbsp of the oil in a food processor and pulse until it forms a paste.

3. Gently open up the the belly of the fish and stuff the paste in, filling it up. Set the stuffed fish aside.

4. Fry your shallots, if needed. Slice one shallot thin. Use a small sauce pan and heat 1 cup of canola oil over high heat until 275 degrees. Fry the shallots for about 8 minutes until golden. Remove the shallots with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate covered in a paper towel. Increase the heat until oil is 350 degrees. Set up a heat proof bowl with a sieve over the top. Add the shallots back in and fry for a few seconds until crispy and browned. Pour the oil and shallots over the sieve into the bowl. 

5. Mix the shallots, scallions, mint leaves, 1 tsp of rice vinegar and sesame owl in a bowl, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Continue to toss until leaves wilt slightly. Set aside for toppings.

6. Add 1 tbsp rice vinegar, oyster sauce, soy sauce, water and sugar to a small saucepan. Heat sauce until sugar dissolves and set aside.

7. Lightly spray fish on both sides with nonstick cooking spray.

8. Heat large non-stick pan on high heat. Pour 2 tbsp cooking oil into pan, and place fish carefully into pan.

9. Lower heat to medium and cook for 4 minutes. Carefully flip fish onto other side and cook for an additional 4 minutes.

10. Remove fish and place on serving plate. Pour sauce over fish and top with toppings.

11. Reheat oil that is left over in nonstick pan till about smoking. Pour oil over toppings.

12. Serve and enjoy!

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