**How to grill fish to perfection, then season with sauces, marinades, rubs**
Seafood and the grill. A match made in heaven. The ultimate fast food. Everything from shrimp to fish steaks and whole fish welcome smoky tones from one of our summertime pleasures — grilling.
No matter the equipment or the fuel, most seafood takes to grilling. I like to make fish kebabs on the hibachi, soak cedar planks for grilling a slab of salmon, light the gas grill for quick-cooking thin fillets, slow-smoke fresh-caught trout, griddle-grill mussels or shrimp and hardwood-roast meaty fillets for a special-occasion dinner. I love large whole fish skewered on a rod and slowly cooked in the campfire embers. Hobo packs of whitefish chunks, tiny new potatoes and sweet onion slices channel a Wisconsin Door County fish boil.
Before I light the grill, I take time to figure out the acceptable seafood to purchase. In this country, everyone wants to eat the same fish. We’re overfishing the most popular species, and we ignore other delicious varieties. Branch out; try the mackerel, the porgy, the skate and the yellowtail rockfish. All delicious and far less expensive than wild-caught Alaskan halibut.
If you think I’m overzealous about knowing your fish sources, please read at least one of the articles in the Associated Press’ Pulitzer Prize-winning series about slavery in the seafood industry. You’ll never enjoy all-you-can-eat shrimp at a cheap buffet restaurant again.
That being said, there are plenty of wonderful fish (and shrimp) options available. Just be sure to shop at stores that have vetted their sources. I read signs and packages and look for Marine Stewardship Council Certifications or check my Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app. Then I take their advice and adjust my cooking accordingly.
Here’s my starter guide for successful, flavorful seafood grilling all summer long:
Sustainable seafood can be pricey, so I add herbs and spices judiciously. I want the flavor of the protein to come through. Think salt and pepper, or a rub of herbs, a spritz of citrus or a dash of good quality oil. Then, boost flavors after grilling with a finishing sauce or a small pat of herbed butter or drizzle of aromatic olive oil and a shower of fresh herbs.
Sure, you can purchase bottled fish seasoning, but I have drawers filled with spices and a collection of salt from my travels, so I make my own, such as the all-purpose seafood rub that follows. Store it in a covered bottle, and use it on fish fillets for speedy weekday grilling.
For a zesty touch, try the spicy fish marinade that follows; I especially like it with skewered meaty fish.
For special-occasion grilling, I douse grilled fish and shrimp with a Mexican-style garlic, oil and dried-chili-pepper mopping sauce; the recipe follows. Alternatively, the lemon, ginger and chive finishing sauce that follows tastes terrific on most grilled fish. I especially like it on small, farmed Mediterranean sea bass or brook trout.
Good heat from hardwood charcoal or neutral-tasting gas is a must. Preheat a charcoal grill 30 minutes before cooking; plan on about 10 minutes for a gas grill. Most seafood cooks nicely when positioned directly over the heat source. Large whole fish or fish fillets weighing more than 3 pounds do better with more moderate heat, so I use the indirect method (not over the heat).
Add soaked wood chips to the coals or put them on a piece of foil set over the heat source if you like a smokier flavor. Always heat the grill grate thoroughly before you put the fish on it. Oil the fish — not the grate — to prevent sticking.
Forget the adage of 10 or 11 minutes per inch of thickness — the fish will be overcooked. I leave the fish at room temperature for 20 minutes or so before cooking, then set my timer for 8 minutes per inch. I can always add more time. The fish should almost flake when tested with the tip of a fork.
**PHOTO ;** *For the herb-grilled Mediterranean sea bass recipe, the fish are drizzled after grilling with a lemon, ginger and chive finishing sauce.*
***HERB-GRILLED MEDITERRANEAN SEA BASS | Prep: 10 minutes | Grill: 15 minutes | Makes: 4 servings***
• 2 whole Mediterranean sea bass (about 1 pound each) or 4 whole brook trout (about 1/2 pound each), scaled, eviscerated
• Salt, freshly ground pepper
• Fresh herbs sprigs, such as tarragon, parsley, thyme, rosemary
• Olive oil
1. Rinse fish; pat dry. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Fill the cavities with the fresh herbs. Let stand at room temperature about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium hot.
3. Spray or drizzle fish with oil. Place fish on grill rack directly over the coals. Cover the grill and cook 6 minutes. Carefully flip fish. Cover grill and continue cooking until fish almost flakes near the head, usually 4 to 6 more minutes.
4. Transfer to a serving platter, and spoon some of the finishing sauce over the fish. Serve hot.
Nutrition information per serving: 250 calories, 7 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 99 mg cholesterol, 0 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 44 g protein, 162 mg sodium, 0 g fiber
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