With warm weather finally here, it’s time to fire up the grill.
My favorite thing to throw on the grill this year is a whole fish. It looks intimidating, but it is actually quite easy, and the payoff is awesome. Fish has so much more flavor when cooked whole, and you can pack in even more flavor by stuffing the fish with garlic, lemon, and herbs, or other aromatics (lemongrass? ginger?). With company, I just serve the fish whole on a big platter and we all go to town.
Ask your fishmonger to give you the fish “cleaned” but not deboned, with the head and tail on. That will give you the sturdiness you want without having to deal with scales or other undesirables. It’ll also leave you with a nice “cavity” in the middle that can be stuffed with flavor. Once it’s cooked, the meat will lift off easily.
Grilled Whole Red Snapper with Lemon, Garlic, and Herbs
1 whole red snapper or similar fish, cleaned
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons dried herbs de Provence (or any kind of fresh or dried herbs)
1. Do your prep. Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Cut the lemon in half, set one half aside, and slice the other half into thin slivers. Preheat a grill over medium heat.
2. Pat the fish dry on both sides with paper towels. Using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal slits on each side, in between the head and tail. Stuff each slit with the sliced garlic and lemon and stuff more garlic and lemon slices into the cavity.
3. Sprinkle each side of the fish generously with herbs de provence, salt, and black pepper, and rub the seasonings into the fish. Toss some seasonings into the cavity. Rub the fish on all sides with canola oil.
4. Place the fish down in the grill. Let it cook, covered, for about 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the dish. Wiggle a spatula under the fish to release it from the grill grates (try not to tear the skin too much) and, perhaps with the aid of an additional spatula, turn the fish over. Let the fish cook on the second side, covered, until it is cooked through. Test for doneness by making an incision with a pairing knife; the flesh should be flaky and opaque.
5. Remove the fish onto a platter. Decorate with lemon wedges and something green, like chives or parsley. Drizzle a small amount of extra virgin olive oil on top of the fish. Serve immediately.
Total time: 30 minutes
Makes 2 or more servings, depending on the size of the fish