How to make it

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. With a pastry brush, spread 1 tablespoon of the oil over the bottom of a shallow heatproof baking pan large enough to hold the fish comfortably in one layer. Line the pan with a long sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and brush the surface of the foil evenly with another tablespoon of oil. Set the lined pan aside.
  • In a heavy 8 to 10-inch skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over moderate heat. When the foam begins to subside, add the bread crumbs and stir until they are crisp and golden brown. With a rubber spatula, scrape the entire contents of the skillet into a bowl. Add the oysters, scallions, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon of the thyme, 1/4 teaspoon of the red pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Toss the ingredients together gently but thoroughly and set the stuffing mixture aside.
  • Combine the remaining teaspoon of thyme, the bay leaves and the cloves in a bowl and mix well. Wash the fish briefly under cold running water and pat it dry completely with paper towels. Season the cavity of the fish with 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining salt, then spoon the stuffing mixture into the cavity. Close the opening with small skewers and cord, as if lacing a turkey, or sew it shut with heavy white thread.
  • Score the skin of the fish by cutting 3 diagonal slashes about 2 inches long and 2 inches apart in each side. With your fingers, press a little of the thyme and bay leaf mixture into the cuts, dividing the seasoning equally among them.
  • Place the fish in the lined pan and brush the top with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Pour the wine down the sides of the pan and bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then bake uncovered on the middle shelf of the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the fish feels firm when prodded gently with a finger.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the sauce in the following manner: -- In a heavy 10 to 12-inch skillet, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the onions and mushrooms and, stirring frequently, cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent but not brown. Stir in the tomatoes, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Still stirring occasionally, cook briskly until most of the liquid in the skillet has evaporated and the tomato sauce is thick enough to hold its shape almost solidly in the spoon. Set the skillet aside off the heat.
  • When the fish has cooked its alloted time, remove it from the oven. Carefully lift the foil and fish from the pan, using the long ends of the foil as its handles, and gently slide the fish onto a heated platter.
  • Strain the juices remaining in the baking pan through a fine sieve set over a bowl. Pour the strained juice into the reserved tomato sauce an, stirring constantly, bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Taste for seasoning, pour the sauce over the fish and serve at once.

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