I first made it with striped bass –absolutely delicious—then with some small hake, and also with pelagisia tsipoura —wild gilt-head sea bream, called Orata in Italy, and Dorade in France– the exquisite, and most expensive Mediterranean fish. All three versions were great, especially with the thick-skinned, almost sweet lemons from the old lemon trees in our garden, which are of the vintage kind grown also in Amalfi.
You basically need no recipe if you would like to make it. Bear in mind, though, that using head-on fish is really important as it flavors the sauce and the potatoes beautifully. Read more HERE.
2-4 (depending on the size) head-on, very fresh white fish (sea bass or striped bass, for example), about 2 ½ pounds (1.250 grams) total, gutted and scaled (See NOTE for filleted fish)
2-3 medium baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 lemons or more, mostly zested with a vegetable peeler, and cut into thin slices
3-4 tablespoons white wine, as needed
Lemon Juice, to taste
Sprigs of fresh thyme, or fennel
Freshly ground pepper to taste, or Aleppo/Maras pepper flakes
Rinse and salt the fish liberally, outside and inside the belly. Place on a plate covered with a double layer of paper towel and transfer to the refrigerator while you prepare the potatoes. Larger fish could be scored so they cook evenly and faster.
Heat the oven to 375 F (200 C)
Arrange the potatoes on a baking pan that would hold the fish somewhat snuggly – I always layer the pan with parchment paper; drizzle them liberally with olive oil, and 3-4 tablespoons wine, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add a few of the lemon slices. Toss the potatoes and transfer to the heated oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes begin to soften.
Take the pan out of the oven, toss the potatoes, then place the fish over the slices. Put 1-2 thyme sprigs inside the fish belly and arrange the lemon slices on each fish. Drizzle with olive oil and some lemon juice, sprinkle with thyme and put back in the oven.
Bake for about 20 minutes or more, depending on the size of the fish. Check with a thin knife to make sure it is cooked through. If it looks dry and needs more cooking –especially for larger fish—spritz with water a couple of times, and maybe cover loosely with parchment paper while cooking longer.
Serve hot, warm or room temperature.