Photography by Kameron McGrath


Long, sun-filled days and warm nights are finally upon us which begs the question: is there anything greater than weekend meals al fresco? One of our favorite dishes this time of year is a perfectly-flaky, ever-satisfying whole fish— grilled, salt-baked, sautéed— and no one does it better than the NoHo standby Il Buco Alimentari (seriously, we’ve tasted many a whole fish and the only iterations that come close to IBA’s are at Milos and I Sodi). Seeing as though IBA also happens to be one of the most recommended restaurants on CITIPHILE (Laurel Pantin, Misha Nonoo, Jennifer Zuccarini, Athena Calderone, Anna Sui, Jenné Lombardo, Brett Heyman and Dalia Oberlander are all fans), it seemed only natural to call upon IBA’s Chef Joel Hough for an al fresco-appropriate dinner idea worth staying at home for. On the menu? Il Buco’s salt-baked Branzino of course, plus its signature crispy lemon artichokes and a delicate grapefruit salad. Here’s to the freakin’ weekend, kids.

Crispy Artichokes
Serves 2-4.

16­-20 baby artichokes
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 bay leaf
1 lemon peel
juice of 1 lemon

To prepare the artichokes, first fill a large stock pot with water, the bay leaf, lemon peel and enough sea salt to taste. Bring to a gentle simmer. Peel the outer leaves of the artichokes until the color appears pale yellow at the base of the vegetable. Then, with a sharp vegetable peeler, peel the stem and base of the vegetable where the leaves were attached until the dark green skin is all removed. Place the artichokes into a container of cold water with the lemon juice. Once all artichokes are peeled, remove from the lemon water and add to the simmering pot. Cook until the base of the artichokes can be pierced with relative ease. Remove from cooking water and place upside down on a stainless steel roasting rack to cool. Once cooled, transfer to a container large enough to hold them fully submerged in olive oil (best when submerged for 8-10 hours). Remove the artichokes from the oil and gently open them up as if they were a flower in partial bloom. Heat a cast iron skillet with 2 inches of olive oil to 350 degrees. Place the artichokes into the hot oil and fry until dark golden brown. Remove from oil to drain on a roasting rack. Season with sea salt. Serve with a lemon wedge.


Pompelmo Salad
Serves 2.

1 slightly underipe avocado
1/2 white grapefruit
1/2 orange
1/2 lemon
2 tsp sea salt, (fiore di sale or fleur de sel)
1 tsp espellette pepper
1 piece bottarga di muggine
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
8-10 leaves of wild arugula (placed in a bowl with ice water)

Split the avocado in half and remove the pits. Cut those halves in half and peel the skin. Cut the quarters into 4 equal size pieces and reserve. Cut the skin off of the grapefruit and cut into 1/8ths. Cut the eighths in half. Loosely arrange the avocado and grapefruit into four shallow bowls. Squeeze the juice of half the orange into the bowls evenly, and then add the juice of one lemon. Drizzle the olive oil next, sprinkle evenly with sea salt and espellette to taste. With a zester, grate the small end of the bottarga onto the fruit like a dusting of snow. Arrange 5­-7 leaves of the wild arugula atop the fruit. Slice the larger end of the bottarga with a sharp paring knife, very thinly, about 5-­7 slices per salad. Serve.


Salt-Baked Whole Branzino
Serves 2.

2 whole branzino, scaled and gutted
2 lemons
8 springs of thyme
4 cups coarse sea salt
2 tbs pink peppercorns
2 tbs cut chives
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup egg whites
Turbinado sugar

Pre­-heat an oven to 350 degrees. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel and place on a cooking tray with parchment paper underneath. Whip the egg whites to a soft peak and fold in the sea salt and cracked pink peppercorns. Slice two of the lemons into 1⁄8” rounds and stuff the cavity of the fish with the lemon slices and thyme. Lay a bed of salt on the sheet tray and place the fish alongside each other with an inch between each fish. Cover the fish from just behind the head to just above the tail with the remaining salt. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until the eyes of the fish appear to pop out. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

OPTIONAL: While the fish is resting, cut the remaining lemons in half and dust the cut side with turbinado sugar. Using a blow torch, gently caramelize the sugar until light brown. Dust again with sugar, and torch again until dark golden brown.

Crack the salt with the back of a knife and gently remove the top layer of salt from the fish. Very gently try to remove all the salt surrounding the fish and then place onto serving plates. Garnish with the olive oil, chives and bruléed lemon. Serve. CP


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