After a festive weekend of eating brats, lamb, steaks, and bbq chicken, The Lovely and I are going light this week. I found some small (about a pound each) red snappers at WF that looked pretty fresh, and made up the rest of the menu while standing in the middle of the produce section.
Please try grilling a whole fish. It is one of the easiest ways to grill seafood, and is nearly foolproof because the fish is wrapped in foil before it goes on the grill, if sticking is a concern. Believe me, this is an easy weekday meal that will take you no more than 45 minutes from the time you start to make the paste until you put a plate on the table. Whole fish come completely gutted, requiring little prep time when at home.
Grilled Fish with Peppercorn/Coriander Root Flavor Paste
I derived this recipe from my Southeast Asian cooking bible, Hot Sour Salty Sweet , that has taught me everything I know about Vietnamese cooking.
Two small whole fish, about a pound each. In Chicago, I usually see Snapper, Mediterranean Sea Bass, and Branzino in this size. All are great choices, as is Porgie.
2 Teaspoons black peppercorns
5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons cilantro roots (if roots are not available, stems work just fine)
pinch of salt
One Teaspoon Thai Fish Sauce
1 lemongrass stalk, smashed and cut into 1 inch pieces.
Banana Leaves or Aluminum Foil
In a mortar & pestle, crush the peppercorns, then add the garlic and cilantro stems, and mash to a coarse paste. Stir in the fish sauce. Or, use a coffee/spice grinder like I do. This is the same base as the marinade to some of the best grilled chicken ever, just with less fish sauce.
Rinse the fish under running water, inside the cavity and out, then make 2-3 diagonal slashes across the fish that cut almost to the bone on both sides. With a spoon or small rubber spatula, fill the flavor paste liberally into the slashes. Place a few pieces of lemongrass inside the cavity of each fish. Spread a small amount of olive oil on two large pieces of aluminum foil and roll each fish firmly in the foil.
Cook the fish on a pre heated indirect grill for 10-15 minutes a side, unwrap and slide onto a plate. I served the snapper with basmati rice and a mango/cucumber/shallot/chili salad laced with a little bit of fish sauce. Serve with lime wedges, and a bowl to put the bones.