I used to be intimidated by recipes calling for whole fish, even after growing up with a fishing rod tucked under my arm, and even after culinary school where we covered all things fin fish. Last summer, I explored grilling whole fish. It was a lot less intimidating to work with them outdoors on a gas grill. I’ve since tested and adapted these recipes for indoor cooking, because let’s face it, we all don’t have the option of grilling all the time.
This is the start to a perfect summer night meal, when you want to expel as little effort as possible to eat something light and full flavored. Pair with some grilled vegetables or a salad and you’re a star, a sea star.
What follows is a formula for simple whole grilled fish with herbs and citrus served in 4 of my favorite ways (I’m sure I’ll be amending this in a year or so with 2 additional ways). You can easily modify this formula to fit your favorite flavor combinations, seasonally available produce and local flavor. Or you can jump straight to my recipe for Whole Grilled Trout with Cilantro, Mint, Nam Pla Prik, and Cashews, which you won’t regret one bit.
WHOLE GRILLED FISH WITH FRESH HERBS & CITRUS - 4 WAYS
Lemon + Parsley + Garlic + Pepper + Olive Oil garnished with Hazelnuts
Orange + Parsley + Oregano + Olive Oil garnished with Olives + Capers
Orange + Lime + Cilantro + Serrano + Cumin garnished with Avocado + Tomato
Mint + Cilantro + Thai basil + White Pepper + Kaffir Lime Leaf garnished with Toasted Cashews + Nam Pla Prik Thai Chili Lime Sauce
Serves: 4 - 6
What You Need:
3 small whole fish, such as branzino, trout or red snapper, scaled, cleaned, & heads removed or butterflied, about 1 pound each
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ - 1 teaspoon ground pepper or other spices or spice blends
1 - 2 bunches of fresh herbs
2 - 3 limes, lemons or oranges, sliced or juiced for dressing
1 tablespoon oil
¼ cup nuts, lightly toasted
1-2 chili peppers, such as jalapeno, serrano or Thai bird’s eye chili, thinly sliced
¼ - ½ cup olives, pickles, capers, or caper berries
What You Do:
Sprinkle sea salt and spices on the insides of the fish. Stuff each fish with few herb sprigs (leaving stems intact) and a few citrus slices.
Brush the outside of each fish lightly with canola oil.
Heat a grill on high heat.
Meanwhile, prepare any sauces or garnishes. Juice or slice the remaining citrus, toast nuts, slice peppers, tomatoes or other fruits, pluck herb leaves from the stems and discard stems.
Grill the fish over high heat, turning once, 6-7 minutes per side or until skin is crisped and flesh is flaky.
Serve immediately garnished with toasted nuts, additional citrus, herb leaves, and more per suggestions above.