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Fish 4 Friday: Pesce Alla Griglia

Whole Fish

Most Americans can’t stomach the thought of cooking a whole fish. They should get over that, though; elsewise they’ll miss out on a flavorful opportunity. And it’s really not any harder than grilling fish fillets. Shoot, in some details it’s actually easier! So pay attention as we move along though this important topic.

A recent article on a beautiful foodie website got me to thinking about this topic, actually. Italian cooks aren’t afraid to grill; they’re almost as fanatic about scorching their food over fire as Texans. They’re also not afraid to look a dead fish in the eye and eat it. They often grill whole fish.

Fish GirlHow do you do this? Well, you DO have to clean the fish; but you’ll have to do that anyway. (If you don’t catch your own fish, you can buy them already cleaned and ready to go.) Next up, I recommend marinating the fish for a bit. True, there are quite a few fish with bolder flavors. However, these aren’t often the kind of fish you grill whole. For size reasons. On the other hand, bass or trout or grouper are ideal grilling candidates. These fish come in reasonable sizes, and you can place them in a one- or two-gallon zip-top plastic bag with ease. Once they’re in the bag, try one of these marinade sauces:

An ounce of light soy, 1/4 teaspoon each of garlic powder, pepper and hot sauce, and juice of a couple of limes. Put these into a blender a whir a bit, then add olive oil, about a quarter cup, in a slow drizzle while the blender’s running. Pour over the fish, seal the bag and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

A half cup of white balsamic vinegar, 2/3 cup olive oil, and a tsp of Sriracha whisked together. Add a quarter cup of minced fresh basil, some freshly ground pepper and bit of kosher salt. Pour over fish, seal the bag; well, you get the rest of the process.

Start with a few cloves of garlic, 2-3 tablespoons of drained capers, 3 ounces of fresh lemon or lime juice, and some ground pepper. Pulse a bit in a blender, then add seasonings like Italian herbs. Pour over fish, etc., etc.

Get the picture? Basically, these are modified vinaigrettes. Which means you can also use store-boughten vinaigrettes for this. Make sure the taste isn’t so bold that it hides the fish flavor. (Unless that’s the whole point; in which case, press on. We’ll never tell, we’re the epitome of discretion here at the Underground.)

To grill, set up your favorite flame scorcher for high, direct heat. You’ll need about 8-10 minutes per thickness of fish, measured at the thickest part (usually just behind the gills). Score the fish on both sides, down to the bones, about 1 inch apart on the score lines. for a large fish, use a slightly cooler grill or the skin will be charred (not good eats) before the center is done. Here’s a nice trick to add Even More Flavor to the fish: Put some rosemary or other fresh herbs in the body cavity just when you put the fish on the grate. You’ll likely only need to turn the fish once; just be sure the skin is nicely browned on both sides.

If you’re worried about sticking, spray the grill with non-stick spray. Take it from someone who’s been there, though; you really, really should spray the grate BEFORE you heat the grill! I’m just saying, unless you want to put a whole new complexion on things, you’ll avoid spraying flammable mist onto a very hot surface…

Enjoy the (Scorching Good Whole Fish) Heat!

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