Salsa Verde (green sauce) is highly acidic, clean, and fresh-tasting. It tastes good on just about anything.

It also happens to be the perfect complement to a rich fish like porgy, an inexpensive variety that I love — though in Italy, a whole grilled fish is served plain. Although we’re using porgy, any fish with hearty skin will work here (like a Mediterranean snapper or arctic char) because it has to hold up to the grill’s intense heat.

This dish is on and off the menu at Esca, depending on availability of fish. Sometimes we’ll do it using striped bass, sometimes porgy, sometimes snapper. The menu is constantly changing. The nice thing about this dish is that the salsa verde pairs particularly well with a variety of fish.

Ingredients for the Salsa Verde

  • 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 3 sprigs rosemary, needles picked off the stems
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup chives, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup fennel tops, fronds picked off the stems
  • 6 sprigs tarragon, leaves picked off the stems
  • 3 sprigs oregano, leaves picked off the stems
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for the Porgy

  • one 2-pound porgy, scales and fins removed, gutted
  • 4 parsley stems
  • 2 medium lemon slices
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • extra virgin olive oil, to coat the fish
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Braised Carrots (see recipe below)

Instructions for the Salsa Verde

  1. Use a mortar and pestle, combine the sea salt and rosemary and crush to a fine dust.
  2. Add the anchovies and garlic, and continue pounding until the mixture has the consistency of a paste.
  3. Follow with the chives, fennel tops, tarragon, and oregano, pounding after each addition.
  4. Transfer the paste to a small mixing bowl and add the olive oil and lemon juice.
  5. Taste and then adjust the seasoning by adding salt and pepper as needed.
  6. This should be made shortly before serving so the herbs are still fresh tasting. Leftovers can be refrigerated and brought to room temperature before serving as a condiment.

Instructions for the Porgy

  1. Prepare a charcoal fire and let the grill get very hot.
  2. Dry the fish with paper towels. Stuff the cavity with the parsley stems, lemon slices, and garlic. Rub the fish on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. When the coals are white-hot, place the fish over the medium-high part of the fire (where you can hold your hand above the coals for, say, 4 seconds). If the flames jump to touch the fish, move it to a cooler part of the grill. Grill the fish for 8 to 10 minutes per side. The skin should be charred but not blackened. The flesh of the fish, when touched, should gently break away under the skin.
  4. Fillet the fish and transfer to two serving plates. Spoon a tablespoon of the Salsa Verde over each piece just before serving with the Braised Carrots.

Ingredients for the Braised Carrots

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups moscato wine
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 cups baby carrots
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Instructions for the Braised Carrots

  1. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium flame until hot but not smoking.
  2. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the moscato, orange juice, brown sugar, raise the heat, and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the carrots and the thyme, stir thoroughly, and cover. Cook the carrots until they’re almost tender, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid and let the liquid evaporate until the pan is moist but no longer wet. Remove the thyme sprigs.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, add the butter, stir until it melts, and transfer the carrots to a serving bowl.