Sustainable, a snap to clean, and strangely adorable (that underbite is kind of everything), itty-bitty Atlantic butterfish ($6.50 per pound; fultonfishmarket.com) are tastiest in fall, once the species—Peprilus triacanthus—has had a chance to put on a few ounces. Cook this mild-flavored bycatch of Rhode Island’s booming squid industry the way James Mitchell, the chef at Newport’s Midtown Oyster Bar, does: roasted in a hot oven, over a bed of tomatoes, fennel, and thyme.
Featured in: The 2020 Saveur 100: 11-20
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 large fennel bulb, cored and sliced ½ inch thick
- 6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)
- 1⁄2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. robust extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 8 whole Atlantic butterfish (1½ lb.), gutted, fins removed
- 1⁄4 cup dry vermouth
- 2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped Italian parsley
- Crusty Italian bread, for serving
- Preheat the oven (with a rack positioned in the center) to 500°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes, fennel, and garlic with ½ cup olive oil. Transfer the tomato mixture to the prepared baking sheet.
- Rinse the fish inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over the fish, then place a generous pinch of the seasoning into each cavity. Arrange the fish atop the tomato mixture, and sprinkle with the remaining seasoning. Cook until the vegetables are soft, 18-20 minutes. Pour the vermouth over the fish, then cook 10 minutes more. Garnish with parsley, and serve with crusty bread for sopping up the juices.