16 plump unpeeled cloves of garlic (or, if you are a real enthusiast, up to 24)
50g (1½oz) butter
120ml (scant ¼pint) white wine vinegar
1 small sprigthyme
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Mark 6.
If the fishmonger has not already done so, clean and scale the pike. Cut off all the fins. Wash under plenty of cold water and wipe dry with a towel. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Slide the sprig of thyme into the cavity.
Butter an oven-proof oval gratin dish and strew the whole, unpeeled, cloves of garlic in it, and put the pike on top. Spread the remaining butter over the pike and place the dish in the oven. Baste the fish every 5 minutes, making certain that the butter does not burn. If it begins to sizzle, stand the dish inside another, larger, ovenproof dish, or on a baking-sheet, to isolate it a little from the heat. After 15 minutes, add 3tablespoons of wine vinegar; add another threetablespoons of vinegar every 5 minutes (9spoonfuls in all) until the pike is cooked. The butter and vinegar will together give the pike a glossy coating and a fine golden colour. The cloves of garlic will be tender and the sauce will have a syrupy consistency, owing to the blending of the butter, which will not have cooked at this temperature, with the vinegar which is considerably reduced. Serve the pike just as it is, in its dish.
very light, very young dry white wines such as Beaujolais blanc, Saint-Véran, Côtes du Rhône blanc