Whole Roasted Branzino

2 whole branzini, scaled, gutted and cleaned but with head, tails, and bones intact (about 1 lb each)
½ cup panko-style breadcrumbs
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium lemon
⅛ tsp salt
¼ tsp rosemary, minced, plus two additional sprigs (and more for garnish, if desired)
2 sprigs thyme (optional)
¼ tsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp capers (drained and rinsed), roughly chopped
¼ cup white wine
olive oil

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring the fish to cool room temperature. Slice half the lemon, reserving the other half. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spritz or lightly grease with olive oil. Place the branzini on the sheet and season the cavity of each fish with salt and pepper. Stuff each with lemon slices and whole sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Lightly oil the outside of the branzini (both sides) with a tablespoon or so of olive oil for each. Splash both fish with juice from the reserved lemon half and ¼ cup of white wine.

2) Bake the fish, flipping over halfway through, for about 15-20 minutes, or until it registers an internal temperature of 125 degrees.

3) Meanwhile, prepare the breadcrumbs: in a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots, garlic, capers, rosemary, parsley and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs and 1/8 tsp. salt and mix to combine. Continue to cook until the breadcrumbs toast a deep golden brown.

4) Transfer the whole fish to a platter and garnish with rosemary sprigs and lemon slices (remove the stuffed ones if you’ve used them all). Sprinkle with some of the breadcrumbs and serve the remainder table side.

5) Fillet with a thin, sharp and flexible knife, make two cuts (perpendicular to the spine) to remove the head and tail. Make small cuts to remove the spiny dorsal fins and other little fins. Scrape off the skin, if desired, which will come off easily. Run the blade (parallel to the table) underneath the top flap of meat to separate it from the spine. (It will be very tender and flaky, so don’t worry if it falls apart. Use a wedge-shaped pie server or spatula to help you transfer it to the plate.) Peel the backbone away from the fish. If desired, run the blade underneath this meat to remove the bottom layer of skin. Discard all the detritus and sprinkle the fillets generously with breadcrumbs.