SEATTLE — Danielle Alvarez is an American born Chef and Restauranteur living in Sydney, Australia. She opened her restaurant, Fred's, in 2016 and was awarded "Best New Restaurant in Australia” by Gourmet Traveller Magazine. She released her cookbook, Always Add Lemon, in November of 2020.
Recipe: Whole Roasted John Dory with Brown Butter, Lemon, Capers and Nori
Excerpted with permission from Always Add Lemon by Danielle Alvarez, published by Hardie Grant Books, November 2020
There really isn’t anything more beautiful or satisfying than a whole roasted fish. Some fish make this preparation a little easier due to their bone structure, and John Dory is one of them. Although not a flat fish like flounder, sole, halibut or turbot, John Dory’s flesh is similar in that it doesn’t have thin pin bones running through it. I have also found that dory fillets off the bone are really not my favourite. It’s a very lean fish, so it can get a little tough and bouncy when the fillets are cooked off the bone. Cooked on the bone, though, at high heat, it is rendered unctuous, delicate and tender. At the restaurant, we cook this fish a lot in the wood oven, but if you don’t have a wood oven at home (I don’t!), you can still mimic the results and it’s a breeze to take off the bone.
The simple garnish of brown butter, lemon and capers is a classic, but classic for a reason: it’s just a perfect accompaniment to fish. The nori adds umami, and it works really well with brown butter and lemon too.
If you want to cook this for up to four people, look for a fish that’s closer to 1.4 or 1.5 kg (3 lb 1oz–3 lb 5 oz) and add about 6–10 minutes to the cooking time.
- 1×800 g (1 lb 12 oz) John Dory, cleaned and head removed
- 2 nori sheets
- 90 ml (3 fl oz) olive oil
- 1 whole lemon, thinly sliced
- 60 g (2 oz/1⁄4 cup) butter
- 2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed
- 1 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, leaves picked
- and chopped juice of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 250°C (480°F).
Start by seasoning your fish with salt and pepper, and set aside. You want the fish to come to room temperature before cooking it.
Next, make your nori oil. This can also be done well in advance. Toast the sheets of nori directly over the flames of a gas burner or under the grill (broiler). If toasting over flame, hold the sheets with tongs and gently brush them over the flame. Keep them moving so they don’t burn. Allow to cool, then crush up and place in a blender with 50 ml (13⁄4 fl oz) of the oil and a pinch of salt. Blend on high until the oil looks black and smooth. Set aside.
Place the fish on a flat roasting tray and drizzle with the remaining oil. Arrange the lemon slices on top, then roast for 13–15 minutes, or longer if your fish is bigger. Remove from the oven and brush half of the nori oil over the top of the fish. Set aside to rest.
In a small pot, heat the butter over a medium heat until foaming and brown, then add the capers and parsley to sizzle for 1 minute. Pour this over the fish and squeeze over the lemon juice.
Fillet the fish by using a fork to remove the top fin bones, then do the same on the bottom. At this point you should recognize the three fillets on each side. Using the back of a spoon, gently push those fillets off the bone and place on a pre-warmed serving plate. If you’ve cooked it perfectly, it should look just the tiniest bit pink on the inside and you should have to push a little bit for the flesh to pry itself away from the bone. If it’s definitely not coming off and you’re damaging the fish, then it needs a few more minutes in the oven. The bone should still appear pink, but the flesh will be cooked. Flip it over and remove the fillets from the other side. Finish by pouring all of that beautiful sauce and remaining nori oil over the top of the fillets and serve immediately.