This is served throughout the South of France in the summertime. It makes a superb buffet dish surrounded by colorful vegetables and a variety of cold sauces. The best fish for this dish are the large, firm kinds, such as red snapper, striped or sea bass, whiting, and salmon.
Prepare the court bouillon (this takes at least 2 hours).
Clean the fish and lay it on the cheesecloth in a pan with sides as high as the fish is thick. Be sure the cloth hangs over the sides so you can pick up the fish when it’s ready. Cover the fish with court bouillon (if there isn’t enough, add white wine or water). Fold the edges of the cloth over the fish. Simmer on top of the stove for 45 minutes. (A rule of thumb is 10 minutes per inch of the measurement across the widest part of the fish.)
Let the liquid cool. Gently remove the fish with two spatulas, using the cloth to hold it together and let it drain on a platter. Remove the cloth and peel off the visible skin. Blot the fish with a kitchen towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Arrange the eggs, tomatoes, and arugula or watercress or basil to surround the fish. Decorate the head with bunches of parsley on each side and place lemon slices, olives, and capers on top of the fish.
Serve at room temperature or chilled. Offer a variety of sauces; the fish will seem to be several different dishes.
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