Christmas Recipe: Whole Roasted Branzino from Chef John Fraser

There was a time when eating vegetables was a chore; today, they are the most popular food item. Chef John Fraser has been at the forefront of this movement in New York for almost a decade.

After working at French Laundry in Napa Valley, then at Taillevent and Maison Blanche in Paris, Fraser moved to Manhattan in the early 2000s and began opening his own businesses, including contemporary American restaurants Dovetail and Narcissa. The two highly featured vegetables.

In 2016, he opened Nix. The restaurant has been celebrated as proof that an all-vegetarian tasting menu can be as exciting and satisfying as the best in town. While Nix has since closed, Fraser’s JF Restaurants now includes eight concepts in New York City and California where vegetables play a crucial role, even with meat and fish on the menu. This focus stems from Fraser’s childhood in Los Angeles, where he grew up surrounded by Californian produce.

“We were kind of a sports and school family,” he says. So it wasn’t exactly the kitchen itself that first drew Fraser to the kitchen, but rather an interest in exploring his creative side. When he started working in the restaurant business at university, it quickly turned into a pure passion for the culinary world. “I just fell in love with the lifestyle and the culture,” he says. “After college, I wanted to spend a little more time in restaurants and cooking and seeing what it felt like, and I never stopped.”

Neither did his fascination with vegetables. Fraser stands for not only these ingredients themselves, but also the wide range of preparations and cuisines in which they can shine. Its Aegean-centric restaurant, Iris, for example, has four different eggplant preparations on the menu: fried and served with tomato mayonnaise, marinated, baked in moussaka and roasted with golden raisins. At 701 West, its Wine spectator Winner of the Best of Award of Excellence which is still temporarily closed due to the pandemic, the mushroom has replaced the more traditional choice of fish for a dish Foil (baked in baking paper), and starry sweet potato as a starter with mustard butter and black truffles.

Naturally, fresh produce is the backbone of the whole roasted branzino recipe that Fraser shares for a Christmas treat. The dish is simple and ideal for sharing with the family, so it is a particularly suitable centerpiece for the holidays. “It’s really, really easy preparation, as everything is done in advance. All you have to do is put it in the oven, dress it and put it on the table, ”says Fraser. This means that hosts can “avoid spending time in the kitchen rather than with your guests.”

The fish may seem like lead, but it’s the textured garnish of sliced ​​veggies and chopped herbs that brings this dish to life. Everything is accentuated by the brackish acidity of the vinegar and capers, creating a flavor profile inspired by the south of France.

The ingredients can and should change with the seasons, as they do when Fraser serves it in their restaurants. Avocado and basil might make this garnish during the summer months, while here Fraser uses fennel and tarragon for a more wintery feel. His recipe calls for chopped herbs, but the chef notes that a fine julienne works too. Or you can just tear up the herbs by hand, a good option for novice cooks who aren’t so confident in their knife skills.

The fish is stuffed with lemon and thyme, roasted then dressed with the fresh garnish, and that’s really all there is to it. Fraser says the most important thing is to make sure the oven is completely preheated before the fish come in to get a crispy skin. “You kind of want to shock the fish into seizing up,” he says. “If you start it too low it will start to smoke and it will be a whole different texture.”

For sides that add consistency to this light preparation, Fraser suggests mashed potatoes or just roasted carrots or broccoli. But since it’s “almost like a salad and a fish put together,” the branzino could certainly stand on its own too – with wine, of course.

The wine lists that Beverage Manager Amy Racine has built for Fraser’s restaurants are just as vibrant as her cuisine – from the landmark classics program that won the 701West a Restaurant Award to the extensive collection of Greek labels at Iris. – so his choice will probably vary depending on the location.

Typically, however, she would associate this with Laura Aschero Liguria Vermentino from northwest Italy. “There is a fairly large presence of this salty water, a sort of salty, aromatic and mineral tone. So it’s great with fish, and especially one that contains capers or something of a similar salinity, ”says Racine, adding that the wine also seems to have had skin contact. “It has a little more texture and a little more bite. So for an entree nothing is missing when making white wine because you have a bit of chewiness and a rougher texture with it.

Below, 10 more Wine spectator recently rated Italian white wine suggestions. They’re textured, with a fresh zest of acidity and saline notes to pair with branzino, whether it’s embracing the holiday tradition of the Seven Fish Feast or simply enjoying an ultra-easy and delicious appetizer anytime of the day. ‘year.

Whole roasted branzino with fine herb dressing


  • 3 to 4 1/2 pounds whole, shelled and gutted branzino (about 3 branzino)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for rubbing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 lemons, 3 sliced ​​into thin rings
  • 3 small bunches of thyme sprigs
  • 1 1/5 cups capers, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of tarragon, minced
  • 3 tablespoons of parsley, minced
  • 3 tablespoons dill, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 bunches of arugula
  • 3 heads of fennel, halved, thinly sliced ​​(using a Japanese mandolin if you have one)
  • 3 shallots, peeled, cut into thin slices (using a Japanese mandolin if you have one), rinsed in cold water
  • Aleppo pepper flakes
  • Flaky salt like Maldon


1. Preheat the oven to 450 ° F degrees. Pat the fish dry. Rub each cavity and skin with oil, then season generously with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavities with lemon slices and a few sprigs of thyme. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Roast until fish is just cooked through, 17 to 22 minutes, depending on size. Pierce the fish with a cake tester in the center of its flesh, wait 30 seconds, then remove and touch the cake taster to your lip. If it’s hot, the fish is done!

3. While the fish is in the oven, combine the capers, herbs, red wine vinegar and olive oil.

4. Toss the herb vinaigrette with the arugula, fennel shavings and washed shallot rings. Serve the fish fillets coated with the mixture and finish with a pinch of Aleppo flakes and Maldon salt. For 6 persons.

10 vibrant Italian white wines

Note: The following list is a selection of exceptional and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our wine notes search.


Vermentino Toscana La Pettegola 2020

Rating: 90 | $ 20

WS Notice: This rich version balances its creamy texture with vibrant structure and its flavors of peach and grapefruit with hints of thyme, sage and pine. Nice length. Drink now through 2025. 58,000 cases manufactured. Of Italy.—Bruce Sanderson


Vermentino Colli di Luni-Toscane Low Vine 2020

Rating: 90 | $ 20

WS Notice: Precise and tasty, like a cross between Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, this white presents floral, peach, currant, grass and sage notes. Backed by a vibrant thorn of acidity, a long and salty finish. Drink now. 3,333 cases carried out. Of Italy.—BS


Vermentino Bolgheri Tenuta Guado al Tasso 2020

Rating: 89 | 25 $

WS Notice: This crisp white reveals intensity from the start, with lively and lingering floral, lemon and thyme flavors. Ideal for shellfish and salads. Drink now. 2,800 imported cases. Of Italy.—BS


Vermentino Colli di Luni-Liguria Gray Label 2020

Rating: 89 | 25 $

WS Notice: A crisp and flavorful white, offering flavors of pine, sage, lemon and apple. Refined and persistent with elements of salty and bitter citrus. Drink now. 20,000 cases carried out. Of Italy.—BS


Vermentino di Sardegna i Fiori 2019

Rating: 89 | $ 20

WS Notice: A light to medium-bodied white that shows some roundness in texture, layered on a bright backbone of lemony acidity, creating a balanced framework for the creamy profile of baked apricot, strawberry, custard and cookie flavors. with ginger. Notes of petroleum and spice linger on the lively finish. Drink now until 2023. 10,000 cases made. Of Italy.—Alison Napjus


Vermentino Toscana Solosole 2020

Rating: 89 | 25 $

WS Notice: Rich and almost viscous, revealing flavors of peach, melon, cut grass and wild herbs, it’s also fresh, leaving a mouth-watering acidity. Drink now through 2024. 9,583 cases manufactured. Of Italy. —BS


Vermentino Toscana Prelius 2019

Rating: 89 | $ 20

WS Notice: This version shows a bit of weight, but its vibrant structure quickly refines the profile. Lemon, apple and stone flavors persist on the finish. Drink now. 1,500 cases produced. Of Italy.—BS


Vermentino Toscana Massovivo Ammiraglia 2020

Rating: 88 | $ 21

WS Notice: Lively and fruity, this white displays floral, peach and thyme flavors. Balanced, ending with a hint of salinity. Drink now. 1,000 imported cases. Of Italy. —BS


Vermentino di Sardegna La Cala

Rating: 88 | 16 $

WS Notice: A crisp and light white, offering a slightly meaty blend of flavors of peach, tangerine and fresh tarragon, with a chalky background. Drink now. 35,000 cases carried out. Of Italy.-A


Vermentino di Gallura Branu 2019

Rating: 88 | $ 18

WS Notice: This tangy and light white offers a fragrant note of grapefruit zest and lime blossom, with a lively blend of pear, grated ginger and saline flavors on the palate. Drink now. 11,000 cases carried out. Of Italy.-A

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