A large sea bream or sea bass (weighing about 2kg), gutted and scaled
1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8-12 waxy potatoes, peeled
A good pinch of saffron threads
250ml Albariño or other fruity dry white wine such as Riesling
1 lemon, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
This is the great festive and Christmas Eve dish of Madrid that is now popular in other parts of Spain. I ate it in Asturias when I was with the American journalist Jane Kramer and the food writer Pepe Iglesias in a restaurant called La Arcea (another name for the becada or woodcock) overlooking the sea in Andrí* near Llanes. The fish was sensational. They cooked it in the wonderful Galician Albariño wine, but you can use other fruity dry whites. And you can substitute sea bass for bream.
Rinse the fish and season inside and out with salt. Sauté the onion in 1 tablespoon of the oil over a medium heat until soft and golden, then put in a baking dish large enough to hold the fish, lined with foil. Boil the potatoes in salted water for 10 minutes, drain and cut them into thick slices. Add them to the onions, drizzle over 3 tablespoons of the oil, add the pinch of saffron and a little salt and mix gently. Then pour in the wine.
Rub the top of the fish with 1 tablespoon of the oil and place it in the baking dish with the potatoes around it. Slash it in two places at the thickest end. Cut 1 thin slice of lemon in half and insert a half in each cut. Put 1 lemon slice inside the fish and the rest on top of the potatoes. Mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the garlic, breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon of the parsley, and sprinkle this mixture over the fish.
Put the fish in an oven preheated to 250C/gas 9 to roast for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the fish is cooked (test using the point of a knife in the thickest part – the flesh should be opaque right through to the bone) and the potatoes are tender. Serve sprinkled with the remaining parsley.
Taken from 'The Food of Spain - A Celebration' by Claudia Roden (Michael Joseph, £25).
Photograph by Jason Lowe