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Whole Fish Worth the Extra Effort

May 16, 1985

Despite an intimidating presence and a false reputation for unmanageability, fish-in-the-round or whole fish can be rather simple to prepare. Just a little additional work is required, in fact, to make a rather ordinary fish, such as sea bass or red snapper, appear as an elegant main course.

The extra effort involves preparing a stuffing that can range from spinach and cheese to simple bread crumbs. Or an easier method is to bake the fish surrounded by a variety of vegetables that can include tomatoes, onions, pea pods or whatever happens to be readily available.

Stuffed Bass is a picturesque presentation that follows the stuffing route with a combination of mushrooms, spinach, cheese and walnuts. The stuffing is substantial enough to be served as a side dish. Thus the meal can be quickly completed by a tossed salad.

STUFFED BASS

1 cup sliced mushrooms

Butter or margarine

1/2 cup sliced green onions

1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, defrosted

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/2 cup soft bread crumbs

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup shredded Jarlsberg cheese

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1 (2- to 3-pound) striped bass, cleaned

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Lemon slices

Fresh dill

In skillet, brown mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter. Add onions and cook several minutes. Drain spinach well. Add to mushroom mixture. Remove from heat. Blend in parsley, bread crumbs, walnuts, egg, cheese and lemon peel. Spoon into fish and truss. Place in buttered shallow baking pan. Combine 2 tablespoons melted butter and lemon juice. Spoon over fish. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 400 degrees 20 minutes, or until fish flakes. Garnish with lemon slices and dill. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

BAKED STUFFED WHITEFISH

1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) whitefish or other whole fish

2 large carrots, shredded

1 heart of celery stalk, shredded

3 tablespoons instant minced onion

1/2 diced green pepper, chopped

Salt

2 teaspoons sugar

Butter or margarine

1 cup fine dry bread crumbs

1 egg, beaten

1 (4-ounce) can mushroom stems and pieces

1/2 pound tiny shrimp

Paprika

Tomato Dill Sauce

Have backbone of fish removed. Keep head intact. Combine carrots, celery heart, onion, green pepper, 3/4 teaspoon salt and sugar and mix well.

Melt 1/4 cup butter and add bread crumbs and egg. Mix thoroughly. Add mushrooms with half the liquid in can and shrimp and mix well. Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle cavity lightly with salt. Stuff fish lightly and close with wooden picks or skewers. Sprinkle fish with salt and paprika. Dot with butter.

Extra stuffing may be formed into small loaf to bake alongside fish. Bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes. Spoon on Tomato-Dill Sauce and continue to bake 45 minutes longer. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Tomato-Dill Sauce

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dill weed

Combine tomato paste, sugar, garlic powder, lemon juice, Worcestershire and dill weed. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

BAKED STUFFED FISH

1 (3- to 4-pound) whole red snapper or other whole fish

Salt, pepper

1 cup packaged stuffing mix, prepared

3 tablespoons oil

1 small onion, sliced

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 (1-pound) can whole tomatoes, drained

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff with prepared stuffing and tie with string. Arrange foil in shallow pan and brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Place fish on foil and fold it around fish to form a boat, leaving room for sauce. Cook onion and garlic in remaining oil 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil and parsley. Pour over fish. Bake at 400 degrees 25 to 30 minutes, basting twice, until fish flakes easily with fork. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

BAKED RED SNAPPER

1 large whole red snapper

Juice of 7 lemons

Few dashes hot pepper sauce

2 onions, sliced

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons oil

1 3/4 cups white wine

Place snapper in shallow baking dish. Add lemon juice and enough water to cover fish. Sprinkle with hot pepper sauce, cover and marinate in refrigerator 2 to 6 hours. Drain marinade reserving 1 cup liquid. Place onions and tomatoes in baking dish and place fish over vegetables. Dot with butter and drizzle with oil. Add reserved marinade and wine. Cover and bake at 350 degrees 1 to 1 1/3 hours, or until fish flakes easily when tested with fork. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

FRIED MARINATED FISH WITH SWEET AND PUNGENT SAUCE

2 (2-pound) rock cod, sea bass or other mild fish

1 small onion, minced

1 slice ginger root, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash black pepper

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon Sherry

Cornstarch

Sweet and Pungent Sauce

Oil for deep-frying

Have fish split almost through but not flattened. Combine onion, ginger, salt, pepper, soy sauce and Sherry. Rub mixture on inside and outside of fish and let marinate 30 minutes. Coat fish lightly with cornstarch and let stand 5 minutes.

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