Landlocked Umbria does not have a seafood cuisine. But its mountain lakes, rivers, and streams abound in freshwater fish, like the tasty tench. This simple preparation is one I found in Umbria, and it is excellent for fillets of our sweet-water varieties, such as carp or whitefish, or even light ocean-fish fillets like sole. Serve with a salad, or with the Potato-Mushroom Cake with Braised Lentils.
- 2 pounds whitefish fillets
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of a large lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
- ½ cup white wine
- 6 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- ½ cup fine dry bread crumbs
- Zest of a large lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste, chopped fine
- Fresh lemon slices, for serving
You will need a 4-quart shallow rectangular baking dish; a heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, 12-inch diameter or larger, with a cover. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly salt the fish on both sides, using about ¼ teaspoon salt in all. Pour 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice, white wine, and another ¼ teaspoon salt into the baking dish, and whisk together well. Drop in the garlic cloves, and stir with the dressing. Lay the fiilets in the dish, turn and swish them in the dressing so both sides are thoroughly moistened, and arrange them, skin side down, in one layer. Toss the bread crumbs in a bowl with the lemon zest, parsley, oregano, chopped peperoncino, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, and toss the crumbs well until evenly moistened with oil.
Spoon the seasoned bread crumbs on top of the fillets in a light, even layer. Bake, uncovered, until the crumbs are crisp and golden and the fish is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Lift the fish out with a spatula, and set on a warm platter to serve family-style, or on individual plates. Spoon over it the juices left in the baking dish, and serve right away, with lemon slices on the side.