Photograph by Gentl and Hyers Food Styling by Maggie Ruggiero Prop Styling by Angharad Bailey

The Godfather I

“Sleeping with the Fishes” Branzino

Mains from Issue 9 – Summer 2016 – The 1970s

The premier entrée in the iconic, moving saga about family and empire, love and honor, revenge and betrayal, and even food (the orange omen portends that when the fruit appears, tragedy isn’t far behind) starred a league of the era’s extraordinary men (the chameleonic Pacino, Brando, De Niro, and the quietly brilliant John Cazale). In one scene, news of the killing of Vito’s top enforcer, Luca Brasi, comes by way of a classic Sicilian message: a dead fish. Our branzino, stuffed with fennel and herbs, wrapped in prosciutto, and strung tightly (as Luca was), leaves just as much of an impression.

serves 4

  • 2 fennel bulbs with stem and fronds
  • cup roughly chopped Castelvetrano olives
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp crushed dried oregano (we like wild Sicilian), divided
  • 4 (¾- to 1-lb) whole branzino, cleaned and scaled
  • 4 bay leaves (preferably fresh)
  • 8 large slices prosciutto
  • tsp white wine vinegar

  • 1

    Light a grill or preheat a grill pan to medium-high heat.

  • 2

    Pick a handful of fronds from fennel bulbs, and thinly slice stems, reserving each separately. Thinly slice bulbs then toss with olives, lemon zest, 1 Tbsp oregano, and a pinch of black pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

  • 3

    Season fish cavities with salt and pepper. Place a handful of sliced stems in each cavity, along with a ¼ tsp crushed oregano and a bay leaf. Wrap each fish with 2 slices of prosciutto and secure with kitchen twine, tying just below the throat and at the bottom of the cavity. Drizzle the fish with oil to coat.

  • 4

    Grill fish, flipping once, until prosciutto is crisp and the thickest part of the fish is cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

  • 5

    Just before serving, toss fennel salad with lemon juice, vinegar, a good drizzle of olive oil, picked fronds, and a pinch of salt.