1/4 cup canola oil
2 (12- to 14-oz.) whole whiting, scaled and gutted, head on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. fine or medium-fine cornmeal
Lemon wedges, hot sauce, or pepper vinegar, for serving
With a rack set in the upper third of the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the oil into a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Turn the whiting belly up, and sprinkle all over, inside and out, with 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and the cornmeal. When the oil begins to smoke, put the whiting upright—belly side down—as if they were swimming, bending them slightly to fit the curvature of the skillet (if they won’t remain upright, leave them on the side they prefer). Fry the fish until the bellies are browining and the visibly cooked area of skin is beginning to creep up the side of the fish, eight to 10 minutes (flip once at five minutes if they are resting on their sides).
Carefully transfer the skillet to a rack in the upper third of the oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, until the fisha re cooked thorugh and firm on top. Dust each fish with a few pinches of salt and pepper before serving, one fish per person on a plate, with a stack of napkins, fingerbowls, and lemon wedges, hot sauce, or pepper vinegar.