Alfred Portale’s Grilled Branzino with Smoked Eggplant, Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, and White Balsamic Emulsion Recipe

Michelin star chef Alfred Portale made his name as the executive chef and partner at Gotham Bar and Grill before starting Portale, his own restaurant in 2019. The New York City-based chef has won three James Beard Awards and has written three cookbooks. In this class, he draws on his Italian roots — and decades of experience — to create what he calls “new American cuisine.”

Below is the recipe for grilled branzino from Portale’s class at De Gustibus in June 2018.

Grilled Branzino
with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, and White Balsamic Emulsion


  • 1 ½ pts. cherry tomatoes
  • 6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 sprigs thyme – leaves picked
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs. flat leaf spinach
  • 3-4 cloves garlic – thinly sliced
  • To taste, chili flake
  • 3 oz. white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 oz. aged balsamic
  • 2 oz. bottled clam juice (or vegetable stock)
  • 8 oz. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pcs. 6-7oz. fillets of trimmed hangar steak
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 cup curly parsley, picked from stems
  • 4 six-oz. branzino filets
  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives – sliced
  • 1 sprig basil leaves cut chiffonade

(Serves 4 people)


  • Preheat oven to 250°F.
  • Wash, then halve cherry tomatoes and place them in a bowl. Season with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, thyme, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer. Slowly roast until the flavors have concentrated and are nicely roasted (approximately 1 ½ hours).
  • In a large pot, add 2 ounces water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add spinach and stir until just wilted (approximately 2 minutes). Drain and spread spinach on to a sheet pan to cool. When cool, squeeze out the excess water and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan. • Add sliced garlic and cook until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add spinach to the pan and sauté. Season with salt and pepper. When hot, add the reserved garlic, chili flake and toss together.
  • In a small bowl, combine vinegar, aged balsamic, clam juice and extra virgin olive oil. Add a generous pinch of coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set the vinaigrette aside.
  • Heat the grill. Clean and oil the grate. Lightly oil the branzino and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill skin side down (approximately 3-4 minutes). Turn the filet over and cook until just cooked through (approximately 2 minutes more).

Smoked Eggplant Puree

• 2 lbs. Japanese eggplant – grilled until charred, then peeled
• 3 oz. lemon juice
• 6 oz. canola oil
• Salt to taste


• Cook whole eggplant over open flame gas grill until skin is charred and eggplant is soft. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool. Remove skin.
• Place eggplant in cheesecloth (or a fine mesh sieve) and hang to remove all the moisture (approximately 1 hour).
• Place eggplant (yield approximately 16 ounces) in a blender and purée, adding oil and lemon juice to lift the flavor. Season with salt.


Spread a spoonful of smoked eggplant on one side of a plate. Place a mound of spinach, then one filet on top. Add roasted tomatoes, olives and basil to the vinaigrette. Spoon over the fish.

Recipe demonstrated at De Gustibus Cooking School June 2018. Complete menu below.

Alfred Portale's Menu

Salt Cod Croquettes, Rouille

Roasted Heirloom Carrot Salad
Candy Cane Beets, Feta, Orange Supreme, Pumpkin Seeds, Cumin Vinaigrette

Grilled Branzino
Smoked Eggplant, Cherry Tomato, Olive, White Balsamic Emulsion

Pan Roasted New York Steak
Sweet Corncake, Spring Vegetables, Madeira Aux Poivre Sauce

Strawberry-Almond Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream