Sunday, April 12, 2009

How to Grill a Whole Fish, or Not

The Tea Drinker was quite adventurous this weekend. He began Saturday as suspected by making me a wonderful robust cup of Vithankande tea, and then he announced that he was willing to join me and 30 other campers for an early morning Boot Camp class. We ran, skipped, lunged, leaped, and shuffled our way to health. It’s a mysterious thing after boot camp, you are immediately energized, and feel like you can face the day, and tackle anything. That is until this feeling of "super human" powers wears off later, and you’re staring at your half-eaten meal. Now wait a minute, I am getting ahead of myself...

After Boot Camp, we trooped off to Model Bakery. Doesn't everyone reward themselves after strenuous exercise with homemade English muffins right out of the oven, slathered in butter, and apricot jam? No? Well, we do. It was the weekend, after all. We were headed home for a day packed with house cleaning, yard work, and menu planning for Easter, until the Tea Drinker declared that we were going to grill a whole fish! The euphoria was definitely running high. It sounded exciting to me. I was game. So, we set off to Whole Foods.

How hard can it be to grill a Whole Fish? Put it this way, we should have started with smelt, or maybe miniature sardines from Monterey bay. At Whole Foods, we talked to the fishmonger, and decided on a 3 pound black cod, gutted, and scaled. We put a few other things in our basket, such as broccoli rabe, olives, lemons, fontina cheese, Italian Peasant bread, and a nice Italian white wine. We had a theme, and we were running with it!

We started the evening by enjoying a watered down version of a Negroni, a refreshing Italian cocktail that consists of gin, campari, sweet vermouth, and lots of soda water. Next up, we steamed the broccoli rabe, then chopped the florets and stalks, tossed with fresh garlic, olive oil, dried oregano, and a splash of red wine vinegar. With grilled slices of the fresh peasant bread in hand, we topped it with the broccoli rabe mixture, and grated fontina cheese. This was all enjoyed while sipping a very nice dry Falanghina from the Campania region of Italy.

We pulled out Mario Batali’s – Simple Italian Food. We were off to a roaring start! We lit the grill, poured ourselves another glass of wine, took the fish out of the refrigerator, and then an odd feeling came over me. A daunting feeling, like the first time I cooked a Thanksgiving turkey. We had Mario’s book by our side, and the words jumped off the page at us -“to grill a whole fish requires confidence that only experience can bring….to over cook a whole fish is better than under cooking by a few seconds…” and “practice before serving it to the President’s wife…” Geez, now politics are involved!

Sprinkled only with salt and pepper, and brushed with olive oil, the whole fish went right on to the barbecue. We turned it every 3 to 4 minutes for a total of 14 minutes. We stared in agony as our fish withered, and fell apart before our eyes. The black cod came off the grill undercooked, and had to be finished in the oven under the broiler. Oh, heck. It did not look appetizing, and our confidence waned. So, we abadonded the grill, and dived into Kara’s Cupcakes, instead. Its at this point that the Tea Drinker decided to work off his sugar high by demonstrating his new found Boot Camp move- a version of a squat, push up, jump thrust into the air. Result: a broken big toe. No kidding.

To grill a fish, or not!


Alexa Bond said...

Brian would have told you to only turn it once. Apparently, that is the cardinal rule of grilling!

Dan is the 3rd broken toe I know this month...

Anonymous said...

Mario B. said to turn it every three to four minutes! Maybe I should have asked Brian or Bobby F.?