I come from a fisherman’s family. My grandfather and my uncles on my mother’s side of the family are in the seafood industry. As a result, I ate a lot of seafood growing up. I can remember family trips to Taiwan as a child included some seafood at every meal, even breakfast. When I was in middle school there was an overstock of shrimp (I have no idea why, but I was 13 so I didn’t think to ask) and we had so much shrimp my mom had to beg us to eat it. Can you imagine that? I wish I had these problems now.
While I love seafood, I’m often disappointed when I order seafood at restaurants. More often than not, the fish is over cooked and over buttered. Shrimp tends to be over cooked, pasty and chewy. Scallops can be delicious, but there is never enough on the plate and restaurants are always trying to fill us up on carbs paired with the scallops. And sushi? Well, I’m a snob when it comes to sushi. If it isn’t spectacular it’s usually pretty bad, and these days there are too many mediocre sushi places that I have trouble trusting any of them.
As a result of my snobbery and living in land-locked Indiana for four years, I got used to eating seafood only sporadically. Recently though, I’ve made more efforts to prepare seafood at home. Inspired by the Whole Grilled Fish with Lime recipe in the July edition of Bon Appétit and strongly encouraged by my dear husbandy, I picked up a whole red snapper and decided to give grilling a whole fish a try. It was my first venture into a whole fish so I (uncharacteristically) followed the recipe very closely. Result? Not bad, maybe even pretty good for eating in instead.
NOTE: Make sure you ask your fishmonger to clean and descale the fish. Removing the scales are a real pain and makes a HUGE mess. If you are stuck with cleaning and descaling yourself, here is a link that does a nice job explaining the process(http://fishcooking.about.com/od/wholefishrecipes/ss/gut_and_scale.htm).
GRILLED WHOLE FISH WITH LIME (from Bon Appétit, July 2012)
1 5-pound red snapper, scaled and gutted
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for oiling and drizzling
2 limes, thinly sliced, plus 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 bunch basil, stems and leaves separated
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves separated
If you are grilling outside build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. I did this on a cast iron grill inside. It got smoky, but we were just oo lazy to build a charcoal fire on our grill on a chilly, windy night.
Score the fish by cutting slashing the fish 2-3 times on each side, spacing them slashes apart. This ensures a more even cooking time. Season fish cavity and skin with salt; drizzle fish with 1/4 cup oil. Stuff some of the lime slices and herb stems inside fish, reserve some of the lime slices for topping.
Grill fish, until skin is nicely crisp and charred and flesh is flaky and opaque down to the bone. Resist, resist, resist, the urge to turn the fish. This step can take 6-15 minutes, per side, depending on the fish. I had almost a 5 pound fish, and it took about 13 minutes per side. Don’t poke or mess with it. Just let the heat do its thing.
Place a metal spatula underneath fish, another metal spatula on the top can help too, then lift and gently roll over to the other side. Cook until flesh is flaky and opaque down to the bone on the other side, another 6–15 minutes.
If you aren’t sure if the fish is ready, use a small knife to cut through the fish. Flaky and opaque is what you are looking for. If the flesh is translucent in the middle, it’s not ready. Lift the fish with a metal spatula and place on a serving platter. Squeeze lime juice over and drizzle with olive oil. Finish by garnishing with lime slices, basil, and cilantro.
We enjoyed this with some brown rice, grilled peppers, and bok choy. Yummy and healthy.