Gigot de Mer

Fish Baked with Onion, Eggplant, Zucchini, Peppers, and White Wine

This “leg of lamb from the sea” is so called because slices of garlic are stuck into the fish the same way they would be for roast leg of lamb—gigot d’agneau—before the fish is baked on a bed of ratatouille. You may use thick slices of haddock, fresh cod, or belly fish or a whole large whiting, striped bass, or red snapper. It is a remarkably easy yet delicious dish imbued with the flavors of vegetables, garlic, and white wine. Riz aux Herbes perfectly complements the taste of gigot de mer, and a green tossed salad concludes the meal happily. Serve with a chilled dry white wine.

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplants
  • salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 4 green peppers, diced
  • 4 zucchini or 2 cucumbers, diced
  • salt
  • freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 5- to 6-pound whole fish (red snapper or whiting or bass),* or about 5 pounds fillets (haddock, cod, or belly fish), sliced inches thick
  • 2 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 4 lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • 2 tablespoons minced basil or Italian parsley

Method

Peel and dice the eggplants into ½-inch pieces, toss with salt and drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible with paper towels. Heat the olive oil in a heavy frying pan. Add about a quarter of the chopped onions and the green peppers, zucchini, and eggplant. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time and adding more olive oil if the mixture begins to stick to the pan. (This step can be done ahead.)

Heat the oven to 375°. If you are using whole fish, make ¼-inch slits in the skin of the fish and insert the garlic slivers as you would in a leg of lamb. For thick slices of fish, insert the garlic between the rings of muscle—two or three per slice.

Place the fish in an oiled baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped onion and the bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cover with the lettuce leaves, pour in the wine and bake for 15 minutes.

Lift the whole fish out of the dish with two spatulas and discard the lettuce. Scrape the cooked onions into the eggplant mixture and put a part of this into the baking dish to make a bed. Lay the top half of the fish skin side down on the vegetables. Place the bottom half on top, skin side up. If you are using slices of fish, simply lay them on top of the eggplant bed. Put 2 to 3 tablespoons of the vegetables over the fish and the remainder around it. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and flakes easily. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the basil or parsley.

* Ask your fish dealer to remove the head and backbone but to save the bone. The dish will have a better flavor if you add the bone during the baking, placing it between the two fillets. It should be removed, of course, before serving.