Grilled Whole Fish with Cucumber Salad

Grilled Whole Fish with Cucumber Salad

How do I prepare a fish for grilling?

You have two options:
1. Request that your fishmonger or butcher scale and gut your fresh fish. (This is our favorite option.)
2. Do it yourself. This is a messy undertaking – so make sure that you’re either outside or have properly prepared a spot in your kitchen for the process. Maybe warn your family.

To scale the fish, rinse the fish under fresh, cold running water. Next, lay your fish onto several sheets of newspaper or butcher paper (trust us, you’ll be glad you did when it’s time to clean up). Hold your fish by the tail and, starting at the tail, scrape the scales using the blunt edge of a knife, working towards the head.

Flip your fish over and repeat on the other side. When you’re finished, rinse the fish under running water again to remove any remaining scales. To be sure you’ve got them all, run your hands along the fish, but be careful of any sharp fins.

To gut the fish, insert the knife tip into the fish’s belly near the tail and cut in a straight line to the bottom of the head, keeping the blade inserted shallowly so you don’t puncture the intestines. Once that cut is complete, spread the body open wide enough that you are able to remove all of the innards. (Note: Some fish have a kidney near their backbone. It’s easily removed by scraping with a spoon or your thumbnail.)

Rinse the cavity out with a good stream of water and wash the skin. Some species of fish have dark tissue that lines their abdominal cavity. That tissue often produces a strong, oily flavor, but it’s easily scraped out.

If you don’t care for your food to look at you, feel free to remove the head, but grilled fish are often cooked head-on. Give your whole fish a good rinse again, and set it aside (on ice, if you can) while you immediately clean up the mess. Collect the guts, heads (if lopped off), and scales, and discard them. Sanitize the preparation area and wash your hands well.

How do you carve a whole fish for serving?

To serve a whole fish, lay it out flat on a plate and slice through the fish where the head meets the body, until the knife meets the backbone. Repeat at the tail end. Slice through the fillet in the centre, separating the top fillet into two mini fillets, one either side of the backbone.

Then slide the knife underneath to ease the flesh of one mini fillet away from the bone, trying to keep it in one piece, if possible. Repeat with the other mini fillet. Lift the tail and pull up toward the head, easing the backbone away from the bottom fillet.

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