I was happy to be featured on MyRecipes.com this week, where I wrote about my favorite vacation meal, which, aside from every meal I’ve ever eaten in France, was the grilled bass I ate every single night I was in the Greek Islands with Mr. English last fall. Click here to see the piece, and get my recipe for homemade tzatziki. You will make it every day this summer, and what could be healthier: nonfat Greek yogurt, cucumber, and mint? And try this grilled whole fish with herbs and olive oil. It’s a show stopper!
- 4 ¾-pound whole sea bream, sea bass, branzini, yellowtail snapper, or other whole mild, white-fleshed fish (have your fishmonger remove any scales, gills, guts, and fins, leaving the head and tail intact)
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 teaspoons very coarse sea salt (recommended: Maldon), (if using Kosher salt, halve the amount)
- 6 very thin slices of lemon, cut in half into 12 half-moons
- 1 ounce fresh thyme
- Freshly cracked black pepper (about 8 turns of the peppermill)
- 2 whole lemons, quartered
- 1 cup pit-in green and black olives, like Kalamata and Sicilian
Fire up your grill! A wood-burning grill is ideal for this recipe, but I also recommend a simple gas grill, preheated to medium-high.
Make sure each fish is trimmed, rinse it, and dry it thoroughly inside and out with paper towel. Season each fish with 2 tablespoons olive oil: pour roughly 2 teaspoons of oil inside the cavity, and rub it into the flesh. Then pour the remainder of the 2 tablespoons on the outside of the fish, and rub it into the skin, making sure every inch of the fish, from head to tail, is oiled (this prevents the fish from sticking to the grill). You’ll want to oil the fish on a wide platter, to catch any oil that will run off, which can still be used to marinate the fish. Repeat for the remaining 3 fish. You should have ¼ cup olive oil leftover for later.
Season the fish with salt. For each fish, you will use 1 teaspoon of Maldon salt, which is a flaky sea salt that creates a great crust on the outside of the fish. Sprinkle about a third of the teaspoon into the cavity of the fish, and use the remainder of the teaspoon to season the skin. Repeat with the remaining fish.
Divide the bunch of thyme into 4 little bouquets. Stuff the cavity of each fish with 3 thin half-moons of lemon, and one little thyme bouquet. Don’t be afraid to stuff it in there—it should pretty much disappear into the fish.
Season the outside of the fish with pepper, about 1 grind on the peppermill on each side of each fish. The fish should not be on a platter, stuffed and seasoned, with olive oil pooling on the platter beneath. That’s perfect! Place the lemon quarters on the platter as well.
Make sure the grill is nice and hot. Get the fish nicely coated on both sides in the olive oil on the platter. Place the fish on the hot grill, and don’t try to move them. Also place the lemon quarters, cut-side-down, on the grill. Cook the fish 7 to 8 minutes on each side, until the skin is nicely charred and releases easily from the grill with the help of a pair of tongs and a fish spatula. The flesh of the fish will be opaque white, and flaky. Remove the lemons whenever they are charred—it takes about 7 to 8 minutes.
Place the fish and charred lemons on a rustic serving platter, and pour the remaining ¼ cup of fresh extra virgin olive oil right on top of the fish. Scatter the olives around the platter, and top the fish with a few decorative sprigs of fresh thyme. Serve them up.
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