This is a great way of cooking a whole fish. It’s flavored with a fresh green chutney, wrapped in foil, and baked. Start with a cleaned whole firm-fleshed fish, about two pounds, preferably with the head on (it’s more attractive, and also helps keep the stuffing inside). In Goa we ate a small kingfish prepared this way. We make it with pickerel or with red snapper (the pink skin is always so beautiful next to green herbs).
Make up a quick batch of chutney, then cut a slit along either side of the backbone and push the stuffing in there, as well as in the fish’s cavity. The fish is wrapped in foil, placed on a rimmed backing sheet (to catch any leaks), and oven-baked; in Goa, the fish is usually wrapped in banana leaves and baked in the ashes of a fire.
The hot pan juices are delicious drizzled over rice, or you can serve the whole dish at room temperature after chilling it for some hours. Leftovers are a bonus; the pan juices jell in the refrigerator and then both fish and jelled sauce make a great topping for hot rice or for bread.
- 1Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
- 2Wash and dry the fish. Cut a slit along each side of the backbone down the length of the fish. Place a large sheet of foil on a rimmed baking sheet (or in a large roasting pan). Pour about 3 tablespoons oil on the part of the sheet where the fish will lie, and set near your work surface.
- 3Rub the fish all over with the lime or lemon juice, then with the salt. Stuff some of the chutney into the slits and put the remainder in the fish’s cavity. Lay the fish on the foil. Pour on the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and spread it over the top of the fish. Wrap the foil fairly tightly around the fish; use another piece of foil if necessary to ensure that the package is well sealed.
- 4Bake for about 30 minutes; time will depend on the size and thickness of the fish. To test, peel back the foil a little and press on the flesh at the thickest part of the fish. It should yield a little and feel soft. The other test is to unwrap more of the fish and test the texture of the flesh; if the flesh flakes with a fork, it is cooked.
- 5Serve the fish warm or at room temperature, with extra chutney alongside as a condiment. Serve by lifting sections of the top filet off the bone; when the first side is finished, flip the fish over to serve the second fillet.
To serve the fish warm, open the foil and let stand for 10 minutes, then transfer the fish to a platter (flip it off the foil). Pour the pan juices into a small jug, so they can be drizzled onto each serving. Alternatively, let the fish cool to room temperature with the foil open, then wrap again tightly in the foil and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 4 hours. When it is chilled, the pan juices around the fish thicken to a jelly, beautiful bright green in color and with a wonderful flavor blend; the fish is firm and holds its shape well. Bring back just to room temperature before serving.
Serve hot as the centerpiece of a rice meal (rice soaks up the pan juices beautifully), accompanied by a vegetable such as Spiced Grated Carrots, Kerala Style or Spiced Cabbage Salad, as well as some simple sliced tomatoes. Or serve after chilling, accompanied by hot rice—or, less traditionally, serve the fish on toast or on sections of warm Home-Style Tandoor Naan.
Beverage pairing: Schlossgut Diel Dorsheimer Burgberg Riesling Kabinett, Germany. It’s the green chile chutney and its complex mélange of lime, coriander, chile, ginger, garlic, and coconut that the wine needs to address. As usual, German Riesling is up to the task. This one, from a subregion called the Nahe, has limey minerality, but also notes of tropical fruits ranging from banana and coconut to mandarin orange, and is beautifully suited to the dish.
This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.