Mention cooking a whole fish and most home chefs will blanch. They don't want to be bothered with the scales or the tail and certainly not the head. Yet, those sanitized and cleaned up fillets means flavorless and blandness. The best bet - going gills to tail.
Melissa Clark realized this and wrote about it in her A Good Appetite column in yesterday's New York Times Food section. Cooking a whole fish means a flavorful dinner later, especially when it's cooked on a grill.A grill is especially not kind to the delicate fish meat. It can dry it out in seconds , leaving as Ms Clark puts it "petrified". Whole fish is a better choice for outdoor cooking. The skin and bones keep the juices from evaporating too quickly as it acts as insulation.There's also the plus of crisp fish skin. The only problem is that the skin sticks to the grate.The solution is a grill basket, a fish shaped , long handled stainless steel holder that goes over the grill grate .It can be found everywhere from Amazon to Target. If you don't have one , then use a flat metal spatula and ease it under the fish before flipping. Don't worry about it ripping. If it does, comes the advice. The spot can be covered up with a garnish of chopped herbs.Remember to remind guests about the bones or filet the fish right after it comes off the grill, scooping the meat off the skeleton, It can then be served cleanly , without bones or the head to freak out the more squeamish guests.
What fish works the best? Ms. Clark recommends whole dorade, branzino or trout.The first two may also go under the names sea bream and sea bass at your local fish markets. They're fatty skinned fish with sweet, tender meat underneath, She also suggest one fish per person. As for flavoring, sometimes just a hit of salt plus the grill's smokiness is all the seasoning needed for these mild flavored kinds.If you do want to add aromatics, then use the cavity,.First season with salt, then the thinly sliced aromatics and finally oil the skin. before popping over the hot coals. .Ms. Clark decided to add lemongrass, sliced lime,cilantro stems and and shallots inside the fish. She also makes a Thai inspired sauce to go with it,using the same ingredients along with Thai chili sauce, mint, fish sauce and coconut milk,.All of it is put in food processor until it's like a mushy spicy relish. Another route would be using Mediterranean herbs on the dorade and the branzino since both fish have been served in Italy and Greece since ancient times. Try a stuffing of rosemary,thyme and garlic along with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.They can also be spiced up Mexican style with a jalapeno sauce spiked up with garlic and onions, along with cilantro and lemon juice. Of course also add olive oil along with salt and pepper.
Going gill to tail is a great way to grill fish, Keeping the head and skin on gives it more flavor. creating a delectable meal.It is the way to create a memorable fillet.