SERVES 4 (FAST): Making shallow slashes in the skin helps the fish to cook more evenly and also makes it easy to check if it’s done.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Salmoriglio is a citrusy, herbal sauce spooned over grilled fish at tables throughout southern Italy and particularly in Sicily. To recreate this fresh combination at home, we started with the sauce, whisking together garlic, lemon juice, minced oregano and olive oil. For perfectly grilled fish that didn’t stick to the grate, we opted for sea bass for its sturdy, semifirm texture. Making shallow diagonal slashes on the skin helped ensure even cooking and enabled us to gauge doneness more easily. To prevent the skin from sticking, we greased the cooking grate and coated the fish with a film of oil. We used two thin metal spatulas to flip the delicate fish once the first side was done. They also made it easier to remove the cooked fish from the grill. The cooked fish needed only a few cuts to enable us to lift away the meat from the bones on each side in a single piece with a spatula (see here). Drizzled with our homemade salmoriglio sauce, the bass w as perfectly cooked and bursting with bright, fresh flavors. If sea bass isn’t available, you can substitute snapper. Fish weighing more than 2 pounds will be hard to maneuver on the grill and should be avoided.
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 1½ tablespoons minced fresh oregano
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 (1½- to 2-pound) whole sea bass, scaled, gutted, fins snipped off with scissors
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- FOR THE SALMORIGLIO SAUCE Whisk all ingredients together in bowl until combined; cover and set aside for serving.
2A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL Open bottom vent completely. Light large
chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
2B. FOR A GAS GRILL Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high.
- Rinse each sea bass under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels inside and out. Using sharp knife, make 3 or 4 shallow slashes, about 2 inches apart, on both sides of sea bass. Rub sea bass with oil and season generously with salt and pepper inside and outside.
- Clean cooking grate, then repeatedly brush grate with well-oiled paper towels until black and glossy, 5 to 10 times. Place sea bass on grill and cook (covered if using gas) until skin is browned and beginning to blister on first side, 6 to 8 minutes. Using spatula, lift bottom of thick backbone edge of sea bass from cooking grate just enough to slide second spatula under fish. Remove first spatula, then use it to support raw side of sea bass as you use second spatula to flip fish over. Cook (covered if using gas) until second side is browned, beginning to blister, and sea bass registers 140 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Carefully transfer sea bass to carving board and let rest for 5 minutes. Fillet sea bass by making vertical cut just behind head from top of fish to belly. Make another cut on top of sea bass from head to tail. Use spatula to lift meat from bones, starting at head end and running spatula over bones to lift out fillet. Repeat on other side of sea bass. Discard head and skeleton. Serve with sauce.
Grilling Whole Fish
SLASH SKIN Using sharp knife, make shallow diagonal slashes every 2 inches on both sides of fish, beginning just behind dorsal fin.
USE 2 SPATULAS TO FLIP Cook until first side is browned and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes, then flip fish over using 2 spatulas and continue to cook on second side.
DON’T OVER COOK When both sides are browned and crisp, gently transfer fish to platter using 2 spatulas.