Crisp Branzino with Spinach

Chef Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia, ate fish every Friday when he was growing up Catholic in Dublin. He has since reinterpreted dishes his parents prepared. This particular recipe is supereasy: He pan-fries whole branzino, bones and all, which helps keep the fish moist while crisping the skin. Recipe from Food & Wine Chefs' Easy Weeknight Dinners

Crisp Branzino with Spinach
Photo: © Fredrika Stjärne
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
25 mins


  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

  • 1 large shallot, minced

  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock or low-sodium broth

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons drained capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 3 tablespoons minced chives

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oi

  • Two 1 1/4-pound whole branzino, cleaned and scaled

  • Salt

  • 4 garlic cloves—2 chopped, 2 thinly sliced

  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped

  • 1/2 pound baby spinach


  1. In a small saucepan, cook 2 tablespoons of the butter over moderate heat until browned and nutty-smelling, about 6 minutes. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the stock, lemon juice, capers and Worcestershire. Stir in 5 tablespoons of the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Stir in the chives. Remove the sauce from the heat and keep warm.

  2. In a very large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil over moderately high heat until shimmering. Season the fish with salt and cook until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Flip the fish and cook, basting with the oil in the skillet, until a small knife inserted in the center of the fish near the bone feels warm to the touch and the flesh is opaque, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet along with the chopped garlic and thyme and continue basting for 30 seconds. Carefully transfer the fish to plates.

  3. Wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 30 seconds. Stir in the sliced garlic and season with salt. Spoon the spinach alongside the fish and serve with the sauce.

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