Speedy saw something like this on TV and I didn’t even bother asking on which show Had to strike out that first sentence — Speedy didn’t see something similar on TV; he imagined the dish then described it to me — stuff a whole fish with bacon, tomatoes and basil, wrap in foil and bake — and I said yes… yes, we’ll do it. Who wouldn’t say yes? Bacon stuffed fish? I mean, baked whole fish — with the head — is fantastic enough but you add bacon to it too and, well… I was imagining the dish already — the aroma, the flavors of the bacon in the fish flesh, the sticky gelatinous head… I was in such a hurry to put the fish on the table that I totally forgot to sprinkle it with snipped cilantro. And was the fish good? Oh, yes. V-E-R-Y.
Bacon-stuffed baked bitilya (seabream)
- 1 whole seabream (or other fleshy fish), about 800 g.
- 50 grams bacon diced
- 2 tomatoes chopped
- a handful of fresh sweet basil leaves roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Using a very sharp knife, slit the back of the fish to create a pocket (you can ask the fish vendor to do this, if you prefer). Sprinkle the fish, inside and out, with salt and pepper.
- Heat a pan and add the bacon. Cook just until a little fat is rendered.
- Add the tomatoes and basil, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, just until the leaves wilt.
- Cut a sheet of non-stick baking paper large enough to enfold the fish in. Cut two sheets of aluminum foil to go under and over the fish.
- Place the non-stick baking paper on top of one sheet of foil. Place the fish on the baking paper. Open up the slit and fill with the bacon mixture.
- Fold over the baking paper to cover the fish.
- Place the other sheet of foil on top then crimp together the top and bottom sheets of foil to seal in the fish. Note that if you use foil only with no baking paper, the fish skin might stick on the foil. That’s why I took the precaution of wrapping the fish in baking paper first before wrapping it in foil.
- Bake the fish at 375F for 30 to 35 minutes.
- Cut through the wrappings (careful, the steam that will burst from the packet is really hot!) then cut the wrappings around the fish so that everything looks neat. Lift the wrappings on which the fish rests and transfer to a platter. Serve hot with rice. No dipping sauce required.