Whole Fish

Yesterday I bought a fish I’d never heard of before.  The fishmonger prepared it in a way that was totally foreign to me.  I grilled it up without a recipe.  Please join me on this wild ride!

The fish is called a Gasper Goo.  It’s a freshwater fish from Louisiana.  The fishmonger prepared it by cutting off the head and tail, rubbing off the scales, and making three diagonal slices along both sides of the fish.  My later reading about whole fish grilling confirmed that these slices are pretty important.  They allow the heat and flavors to penetrate the skin.  They also provide a place to stuff herbs!

I was a little mystified when I opened the fish at home.  I’ve grilled whole fish once before, but that was trout.  The fishmonger de-boned the trout and opened it up completely.  This fish was still in one large chunk.

So the picture above is the fish as I prepared it.  I started by salting the fish inside and out with sea salt.  Then I stuffed the slits with fresh herbs from our garden.  I also stuffed the cavity of the fish with herbs.  I drizzled the top with olive oil, added the sliced lemons (from our tree), and added some freshly ground pepper.  Lastly, I poured a pool of olive oil in the pan and rubbed the fish in the pool, to oil the bottom side.

I also decided to grill some onions while I was at it.  Here are my onions, sliced, brushed with olive oil, and peppered.

Now, on to the grilling!  As noted above, I didn’t have a recipe for grilling this fish.  I figured I didn’t want to cook it too hot.  I set the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking and warmed it up to about 375.  I’ve been struggling with meat thermometers lately.  I decided to try the internal probe thermometer for this one.  I figured the meaty part of the fish would be too small – but you never know unless you try.

Before I placed the fish on the egg I brushed the grill with olive oil.  This is key if you have any hopes of keeping the bottom skin of your fish intact.

It turns out I was right about the thermometer.  The fish reached 145 after about 25 minutes.

I let the fish reach 150 as I prepared to pull.  I used two spatulas to remove the fish.  I tried to separate the skin from the grill by using quick, forceful thrusts with the spatula.  Turned out my olive oil trick didn’t work – most of the bottom skin stuck to the grill.  In the end, it’s not a really big deal.

So here’s the finished product – or so I thought.  As I cut into the fish, I quickly realized it wasn’t done.  Bummer.

But a wise man once told me that grilling is learning.  If you pull your meat too quickly, you can always put it back on the fire.  There’s no shame in that.  Perfection comes with experience.

So the fish went back on the fire.

Twice.

After about 25 more minutes on the flame, we were ready to eat.  The fish was delicious.

I did learn a few things from this experience:

  • The next time I cook a whole whitefish I’m going to cook it hotter, perhaps 450+, and plan on about 25-35 minutes for a two pound fish.
  • The probe thermometer doesn’t work for this product.
  • When I put the fish back on the grill after pulling it too early I put it on aluminum foil.  This worked really well.  I don’t think I’d cook the fish the entire time on the foil.  It seems this would get in the way of the cooking process and prevent airflow to the bottom half of the fish.  However, the foil was a lifesaver this time because I left the bottom skin on the grill when I pulled the fish the first time!
  • The gasper goo is an OK eating fish, but not great.  It was very tasty.  It has an oily characteristic that’s slightly off-putting, though.
  • I picked up some tips online for serving the whole fish.  It was actually quite easy.  You start by cutting filets from the top of the fish.  Insert your knife just above the backbone of the fish and cut from head to tail.  The fishmonger’s slices make nice little portions.  After the top filets are served you can remove the entire bone.  If the fish is cooked properly it should be very easy to remove.  Then you can serve the bottom filets.

I’m looking forwarded to trying whole fish again sometime soon!  Check back for refined recipes!

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About bbqesquire

I'm a Scandinavian Plaintiff's lawyer from Minnesota living in California. Despite that background, I've become a weekend warrior on my Big Green Egg. I've started this blog to share my successes, failures, and experiments with anyone who cares to read about them.

4 responses to “Whole Fish”

  1. eric says :

    hmmmm…popular fish are popular for a reason. If there were some other “awesome” eating fish out there, you’d have heard of it or you’d be paying $$s for it. That is always my motto.

    BUT, that being said, you gotta try new things.

  2. Dempsy says :

    The next time you cook a fish (any kind) on the grill, try this trick to make it not stick. Let the grill get hot, then cut open a raw potato and rub the cut side on the hot grill. The starches stick to the grill and make the fish release.

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  1. Another Weird Fish « BBQ, Esquire - 01/09/2012

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