JeanMarie Brownson: This fish dish should be a summer staple
Summer vacations are synonymous with fresh fish. My father set out in the wee hours of the morning to catch Wisconsin lake perch and walleye for a family meal. Occasionally, the plan worked.
Nowadays, when traveling, I order local fish at restaurants or seek out fish markets to cook someone else’s daily catch. Then I light the grill at our vacation rental or at a beachside park. Armed with some good olive oil, salt and pepper the grilling could not be easier or faster.
When grilling fish at home, I start by making a pot of creamy mashed potatoes or corn-sweetened polenta to accompany the fish. Seasonal vegetables, such as asparagus or small zucchinis can be grilled before the fish; they taste great at room temperature. Sides done, the cook can concentrate on grilling the fish. An easy smoked tomato vinaigrette transforms simple fish into a restaurant-worthy treat.
Thick fish fillets, such as salmon, halibut and mahi-mahi, taste great on the grill. Plan on 11 minutes per inch of thickness for cooking time. Thinner fillets, such as ocean perch, snapper or tilapia, cook in about half the time.
Many large supermarkets sell whole, farm-raised rainbow or brook trout. They typically are less expensive than other fish and have delicate flesh and mild, sweet taste. Purchase them cleaned and trimmed; I remove the heads before grilling so I can use them to make a mild fish broth. Cook the headless fish, splayed out flat on a hot grill skin side down for a couple of minutes. Then, finish the cooking by the indirect method (away from the heat source) for a total time of about 5 minutes.
Leftover grilled fish makes a beautiful salad. Thinly slice ripe fresh tomatoes and arrange them in overlapping circles on a plate. Top with flakes of the grilled fish, diced avocado and spoonfuls of the vinaigrette.
Fish grilling tips:
1. Always preheat the grill grate so it is very hot.
2. Oil the fish, not the grill grate, to help prevent sticking.
3. Do not try to move the fish around or flip it over; it will stick and break.