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Catholic Recipe: St. Peter's Fish with Herbs


  • 1 Tbsp. minced tarragon
  • 1 Tbsp. rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. breadcrumbs
  • 1 St. Peter's fish (John Dory), weighing roughly 3 pounds, filleted (sole can substitute)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • all-purpose flour
  • oil for frying
  • 10 Tbsp. butter, melted in frying pan
  • 2 Tbsp. dry white wine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Details

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: • •
  • Cost: $$$$
  • For Ages: 11+
  • Origin: Rome

Fish shows up on tables everywhere to celebrate the Church's first pope, whose occupation was a fisherman, until Jesus called him fish for men (souls).

Many cookbooks give recipes for fish bearing Peter's name. One fish in particular, as tasty as it is ugly, was classified by Linneaus in the eighteenth century as Zeus faber, but is more commonly known as St. Peter's fish or John Dory (See picture.) The reason for this association may lie in one of several legends. It is said that the saint found this fish caught up in his net and, seeing how ugly it was, gingerly picked it up between two fingers (marking the two black spots on its side) and threw it back into the water. Others have ventured that these marks are black because St. Peter had previously worked as a charcoal-maker; still other accounts identify them as marks of holy gratitude, since in the fish's mouth the apostle found a silver coin with which he was able to pay the excise man at Capernaum.

The name "John Dory" is the English commonplace version of "St. Peter."


Combine the herbs, garlic and ginger in a mortar, crush, then add all but 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Mix well and spread over the bottom of a large oval dish. Coat the fish fillets with the egg, coat with flour and fry in the oil. When the fillets are done, drain on absorbent paper. Add herbs to the butter. Slowly add the wine and lemon juice. Blend vigorously together, until the mixture is well amlgamated. Set the golden-brown fillets of fish on the serving dish, sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs and serve still warm, with the piping hot sauce.

Recipe Source: Buon Appetito, Your Holiness: The Secrets of the Papal Table by Mariangela Rinaldi and Mariangela Vicini, Arcade Publishing, New York, 2000
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