By Mike Thayer
If fried fish is about the only way you will eat fish, then you'll come to like grilled fish even better than fried after reading this chapter.
That's pretty much the only way I used to eat fish, fried... Beer batter was preferred and I had absolutely no interest in offerings that were 'baked,' 'poached' or just sauteed in butter. There just wasn't enough flavor in the fish and the texture wasn't right in those other preparations.
Enter, the grill.
Smoke does A LOT for fish, so does the kind of heat you get from a grill. The texture of fish changes when placed directly over a fire and it absorbs smoke flavor readily. Fish and the grill are a perfect pairing because what turns out to be mush in a poached offering, becomes crispy on the outside but tender on the inside deliciousness in a perfect bite delivered from the coals...... What is bland in a baked preparation becomes, "I didn't know salmon could taste this good!" in a grilled preparation. I don't care how much seasoning and pretty decorative parsley is placed on the fillet, baked fish sucks.
Here's a fantastic marinade for about two pounds of salmon:
- Half cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
- The juice from half a lime
- One Tablespoon of dried, minced onion
- One teaspoon of garlic powder
- One Tablespoon of light brown sugar
- Couple dashes of balsamic vinegar
Mix all ingredients for the marinade in a bowl or big measuring cup, set aside. Cut your salmon into four equal pieces (optional), place in a Tupperware bowl or a big zip lock bag, pour in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Fish does not need a lot of time to marinade, don't marinade more than four hours, or your fish will turn to mush. Salmon is great for the grill, remember to take the fish out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes prior to placing over the coals. You’re doing this to inspect the fish and make sure it‘s well covered in the marinade. It’s not about letting the protein come up to room temperature like you hear some of the cooking show talking heads say, that’s just yada, yada talk to kill air time. The truth is, refrigerated meats and/or fish won’t come up to room temperature in just 30 minutes, not even close. OK, back to the salmon…..
Put the fish over direct heat, fish side down at first (not skin side), let them sizzle for about two minutes to get some nice grill marks, do NOT cover. Flip to the skin side after two minutes, keeping it over direct heat to get that skin crispy. Now you can put a lid on it, for about another 3-5 minutes to get that nice charcoal flavor. Remove from the grill and let them rest. This recipe is a real crowd pleaser. Excellent served with grilled lime wedges, a side of rice pilaf and glazed carrots.
Simple Grilled Shrimp
Shrimp is such an easy thing to do on the grill, it's quick, delicious and crowd pleasing. And you don't have to worry about seasoning it up a whole lot, let the shrimp itself, be the star.
- Two pounds of jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- One teaspoon garlic powder
- Juice from half a lemon
- One teaspoon dried parsley flake
- Salt and pepper to taste
Put the shrimp in a large ziplock bag. Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the shrimp in the bag. Refrigerate for one hour. When the grill is ready to receive, put the marinated shrimp on metal or water soaked wood or bamboo skewers over direct heat. These cook up rather quickly, about a minute or so on each side or until pink all around with a slight char from the grill. Hit them with the juice from the other half of the lemon, some garlic butter (if you've been paying attention throughout the book, you know to always have some garlic butter sitting over indirect heat on the grill) and serve immediately. Ingredient Option: Add some chili flakes to the garlic butter.
Tasty Grilled Tilapia
Tilapia is my go-to fish, it's readily available, it's cheap and the best part is it can take on any flavor you want to throw at it. It is a more delicate fish than the 'meatier' fillets like salmon or tuna, so you may want to use a grill basket or grill sheet when throwing this fish on the grill.
- 4 Tilapia fillets
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Two tablespoons Cookies Flavor Enhancer or all purpose seasoning salt
- One lemon, sliced into four wedges and brushed lightly with olive oil
Season the fish on both sides with the seasoning salt and place into a large ziplock bag. Pour in the olive oil and refrigerate for one hour. When the grill is ready to receive, place the fillets and the lemon wedges over direct heat and put the lid down so the fish and citrus can absorb some smoky goodness. This fish cooks quickly, it's only going to need about 2-3 minutes per side. Remember, because this fish is flaky, you may want to use a grilling basket or grill sheet. Serve the fish immediately, squeezing that grilled lemon wedge over the Tilapia at the table.
Serving Options: Tilapia is SO versatile! Brush it with your favorite BBQ sauce before placing on the coals. A classic preparation of garlic butter with fresh chopped Italian parsley is also very good. And there's nothing like a little kick, Tilapia brushed with Sriracha is excellent.
Quality tuna on the grill is tough to beat. A nice thick cut tuna steak is to fish, what a Ribeye steak is to beef. And because tuna is so good, there's really no need to doctor it up much, you want to really enjoy the essence of this fish. I prepare mine quite simply. Dress the steaks with olive oil, salt and pepper on both sides. When the grill is ready to receive, put the tuna steaks over direct heat. And this is an excellent piece of fish to get those great diamond grill marks on. Rotate the fish a quarter turn after one minute, then let it sear another minute before flipping, keeping the tuna over direct heat for another minute or two. With tuna, you don't want to cook it all the way through, you want a strip of pink running through it, just like a medium to medium rare Ribeye. If you cook tuna all the way through, it tends to dry out, meaning a much less enjoyable piece of fish. Enjoy tuna steak as is with a side or rice, or slice it up to make some fantastic fish tacos!