John Picone takes inspiration from his Sicilian parents for this dish. He likes simple, uncomplicated food and this dish reflects the food he grew up with. "This dish is the perfect excuse for you to check out what Australian wine producers are doing with Italian grapes. John’s inspiration is Sicily, so let’s look to indigenous Sicilian varieties for a match and, given the tomato sauce, I think a light red one will be best. Probably the most important variety is Nero d’Avola, which has recently shown itself to have real promise in Australia. New from McLaren Vale is this silky, elegant version from Brad Hickey, under his Brash Higgins label. There’s a real lightness of touch in the winemaking, which means it won’t overpower the fish at all." - Dan Coward
- 1 brown onion, peeled, cut in half, finely sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, very finely sliced
- 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- pinch of saffron, soaked in 1 tsp boiling water
- ½ tsp dried tarragon
- ½ tsp dried marjoram
- salt and pepper
- 60 ml (¼ cup) Cinzano Extra Dry Vermouth
- 500–700 g very ripe tomatoes, pureed (alternatively use 2 tins good quality crushed tomatoes)
- 1 whole snapper (2 kg), scaled, cleaned, patted dry with paper towels
- lemon, peeled, finely sliced
- parsley, finely chopped
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Drink Brash Higgins 'NDV' Nero d'Avola Amphora Project 2011, McLaren Vale, SA
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Over a medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil, until golden and very soft. Add the fennel seeds, saffron, tarragon, marjoram, salt and pepper. Stir over a low heat for 2 minutes. Add the Cinzano and reduce to half the original amount. Add the tomatoes and cook until thickened. Take off the heat.
For the fish, make a longitudinal cut on both sides of the fish down to the bone.
Line a baking dish with baking paper. Drizzle some olive oil on the dish and spoon one-third of the sauce on the base. Place the fish on top of the sauce. Spoon another one-third of the sauce inside the fish cavity, and add 3–4 lemon slices. Spoon the remainder of the sauce over the fish, coating as much of the fish as possible. Place lemon slices along the centre of fish. Add a little sea salt and pepper to taste. Cover the dish with foil making sure to seal around edges.
Bake in the oven, covered for approximately 30–35 minutes.
Remove the foil and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with steamed potatoes and vegetables of your choice.