my amazingly robust and fragrant baked sea-bass with fennel and ouzo

My friends Alexi and Daphne came over for dinner the other day, and I made a lovely old recipe of mine to test out my new AEG oven. For those who are intimidated by fish, this is a very robust, easy recipe. I bought in the afternoon some fresh sea-bass (λαβράκι) from the fishmonger's - and I had them scale it, and then gut it. When I came home, I carefully clipped the fins with a pair of scissors, and gave it a final wash again under cold water. Most importantly, I kept the head on (since there's always someone who wants to eat it). I tend to use a combination of wine and ouzo when cooking seafood, since I find the addition of ouzo heightens the flavours. Recipe follows, folks.

1 large sea-bass, whole, with head, scaled, and gutted
1 large lemon, thinly sliced
juice of 1 large lemon
1 large fennel, thinly sliced
2 knobs of butter
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 scallions, thinly chopped
1 medium size red onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of white wine (any wine will do)
2 shots of ouzo

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Take 2 large pieces of aluminium foil (more than double the length of the sea bass), and stack them one on top of the other. In a medium size pot with salted boiling water, poach fennel slices for 4 minutes, and then drain in cold water. In roasting pan, place stacked aluminium foils in the bottom (half of the foil will extend past the length of the pan), and lay the sea bass on top. Season the sea bass on the outside with salt and freshly ground pepper, and rub with olive oil. Stuff the sea bass with 3-4 lemon slices, the butter, and a bit of the fennel (oh, and some of the garlic!). Don't worry if some of it extends out of the cavity of the fish.

Add the onions, scallions, and the remaining fennel and garlic around the fish, and on top. Pour the white wine and ouzo on top of the fish. You can drizzle some extra olive oil at this stage over the vegetables if you wish. Take the aluminium foil that extends out of the pan, and wrap it over the sea bass, creating tight creases around the edges to trap the air inside. Place pan in the middle rack of your pre-heated oven, and bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve immediately with some fresh bread, and a lovely white wine. I had the pleasure of two bottles of a Greek dry white called Ψηλές Κορφές (2008) which Alexi and his wife brought over. It had a very prominent sweetness, fruits, with a lovely finish.

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