What a weekend we had of great cooking adventures!; On Sunday we visited one great Korean market here in Austin, recommended by my good friend Andrea. It was lots of fun. We found great ingredients and an awesome little food court with the most incredible Dolsot Bibimbap and the location of the Kin and Comfort . The menu looks divine, peppered beef tongue?, taro hush puppies!, mac and cheese with curry, coconut cabbage slaw… we have homework, but well that is a whole different episode, this post is all about the fish.
Our mission was to find a great whole fish to grill. And as soon as we entered the fish market area there he was waiting for us; a handsome fresh whole Red Snapper with gorgeous eyes looking at me. Sold! I saw it and I knew it was going to be great.
Now, how do you pick a good looking fish? I will share with you my must have fish shopping list. When I’m choosing whole fresh fish it must be odorless, must have plump clear shiny eyes, scales on, bright red gills, flesh that springs back and a perky tale. If the fish is missing one of these… I will be having pork chops instead. How big of a fish you should buy? If you go by weight, a whole Red Snapper wild yield in meat almost half of the weight. This weight tip is a good point of reference to consider, when you are buying whole fish. We bought a 2 Lb. fish and it was good for two people.(in fact, the fish turned out so good that maybe next time I will get a 3 pounder for sure!) At the market, the fish monger cleaned our fish, removed scales, and butterflied it for us. It was clean and ready to cook when we arrived home.
Ian is the fire master at our house so he lit up the charcoal, while I was preparing the pesto. Red Snapper has great flavor and white flaky flesh. It is a little bony but if you follow the flesh grain it is easy to eat whole. For the preparation of this baby, I went for light fresh herbs to go with the freshness of the fish. I grabbed some mint, lime juice, garlic, olive oil, and a little serrano to add some kick and brighten up the flavor. The pumpkin seeds gave a nutty note and body to the pesto. this pesto paired perfect with the charred-grilled fish flavor.
Now, let’s talk about grilling. The grilling style that is close to my heart I inherited from an Argentinian chef, Francis Mallmann. I had the opportunity to meet him at a book signing here in Austin where I was helping to host his Seven Fires book presentation. I was amused by his premise about grilling. For Chef Mallmann it’s all about developing char. Char adds character and flavor to meats, poultry, fish, vegetables and fruit when grilled. I remember the first time we grilled following instructions from his book, and we were thinking all along we had burnt the dinner, and when we tried those charred vegetables it changed our grilling perspective. So since then, when we grill we use his technique.
For fish like Red Snapper when it’s grilled, it develops a delicious crusty salty and slightly fatty flavor, charred areas add deep of flavor and character to the fish it’s just utterly delicious. If you never have had a whole grilled fish you are missing big time flavor, and a great cooking adventure from your cooking repertoire, I betcha 100% you’ll love fish even more after this recipe. Enjoy!
Grilled Whole Red Snapper + Mint Lime Pesto
Serves 2, recipe can easily be double or tripled if needed.
1 whole Red Snapper 2lbs. approximately.
1-2 extra virgin olive oil glugs
Sea salt & Pepper to taste.
Serve with: Red quinoa, rice or couscous. Vegetables of your affection. In this case I grilled red onions, red tomatoes, broccolini, and cucumber slices, dressed with lime salt and pepper.
A large grill fish basket, with wood handle.
It is so easy to use one of these baskets and also is prevents your fish from sticking to the gill. You can flip it in a more secure manner with out tearing it apart and it cooks evenly and its safer to handle, a great inexpensive grill gear investment.
Mint Lime Serrano Pesto
1 packed cup fresh mint leaves or mexican hierba buena leaves
(about a medium size mint bunch will yield a packed cup of leaves)
1 small serrano or jalapeno if you prefer.
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons salted toasted pumpkin seeds
the juice of two limes
the zest of one lime
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
1. First prepare the Pesto. Place every pesto ingredient in an immersion blender glass or food processor until pureed. The consistency should be like a loose paste. If too pasty add a bit more extra virgin olive oil and an extra squeeze of lime. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.
2. Prepare your fish. Rinse and wash your fish really well. With a paper towel path dry your fish inside out. With a knife make some slits on the skin of your fish so it cooks evenly.(See picture below)
3. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the pesto in the fish cavity, add some lime slices, and mint sprigs
4. Oil your fish basket with a bit of olive oil. Place the whole fish into the fish basket. Make sure to secure the lock.
5. Light up your charcoal. I always prefer to use natural charcoal because it adds great flavor to the grilling and it avoids the use of chemicals that in my opinion when used transfer an odd flavor to the food. The easiest way I found to start the natural charcoal is by using a charcoal chimney.
6. Once your charcoal is hot and ashed over place the fish on the grill. It will take about 6-7 minutes per side to cook depending on the size of your fish. For a salt water fish like red snapper thermometer should read between 110-120F when cooked.
7. Serve with vegetables of your affection, we grilled red onions, tomatoes, and broccolini.
Serve over tricolor quinoa. Drizzle more pesto on the fish when plated an extra squeeze of lime or lemon, eat with abandon…