Martha Stewart Living (June 2009)
But this one was a little daunting -- neither of us had ever cooked a whole fish before.
We'd had it on our mind recently after seeing a terrific how-to guide about grilling a whole fish in the June issue of Martha Stewart Living. Then, when we saw this whole snapper staring up at us from the seafood counter of our local Harris Teeter, we traded glances, widened our eyes and nodded.
It was time.
First off, a distinction: This fish was already cleaned and dressed (meaning, essentially, that the entrails had been removed). So we didn't really have to do anything to prepare it. Is that cheating? Perhaps. But we don't feel bad.
So, uh, here's the secret to grilling a whole fish: It's a cinch!
We sliced up some lemon, threw the lemon and a handful of fresh thyme springs into the cavity of the fish, slathered it with olive oil and threw it on the grill.
It cooked in about 15 minutes (which was a little longer than we were expecting, actually. Just follow Martha's directions for how to test for doneness and you'll be fine).
The snapper was perfectly done: light, fresh and flaky. The only drawback was that some parts of the fish were extremely well seasoned with the lemon, thyme and salt, but other parts of the fish required more seasoning on the plate.
We ate it in the back yard with some blanched green beans, fresh from the farmers market, and a bottle of crisp white wine. It made for a perfect meal on a cool early summer evening.
A note: Obviously, if you have a problem with eating something with teeth and eyeballs, well, this isn't for you. At first, we were slightly skittish about the whole thing -- "Ooo, I think he's looking at you!" -- but by the end, we were using our hands, picking the meat straight off the whole fish itself. Maybe that's not the most genteel approach, but we didn't want any of this delicious fish to go to waste!
Do you cook whole fish? Have a favorite preparation? We'd love to hear about it.
(This Photo: Martha Stewart Living)
A whole fish, such as red snapper, branzino, or black bass makes an elegant meal. (See how to grill it for cooking times.)
1. Plan on one 1 1/2- to 2-pound fish for two ample servings.
2. Add seasonings to the cavity of a cleaned, scaled fish: salt, pepper, a drizzle of good olive oil, lemon slices, and sprigs of fresh thyme. Rub the outside of the fish generously with olive oil; this will help keep the skin from sticking to the grill. (It may happen anyway; the fish won't look as pretty but will still taste delicious.)
3. The fish will cook quickly over direct heat.
4. To test for doneness, insert a metal skewer into the thickest part. It should not meet resistance and should come out warm.
5. Drizzle with more olive oil and lemon juice before serving.