Fish on the Grill

For many, perhaps most, Americans, summertime is a parade of meat. That’s what happens the moment the cover comes off the backyard grill, letting those late-daylight evenings and especially weekends become festivals of smoke and flame.

There is absolutely no reason fish and other types of seafood should be left out of the party.

After all, an open fire has got to be the most ancient way of cooking fish, as it is the most ancient way of cooking just about anything. And while boiling crabs, shrimp, crawfish and other shellfish will never lose its appeal, and while New Englanders will happily steam lobsters and clams until the Red Sox come home, there is a lot to be said for grilling. And, not at all surprisingly, we are here to say it.

Grilling over direct heat makes foods caramelize in wonderful ways that no amount of steaming, boiling, poaching, baking, roasting, braising, pan-frying, deep-frying or even smoking over wood ever will.

So the next time you start to pull out burgers, hot dogs, steaks or chicken to toss on your grill, you should consider snapper, redfish, cod, halibut or a host of other fish.

Every supermarket has a good to great selection now, not like in the old days when you had to live near a coast. Grilled shrimp are awesome too, as most people know from those omni-present restaurant Caesar salads. And grilled sea scallops are out of this world, as long as you’re careful to barely cook them.

There are a number of tricks to grilling better fish – or, more accurately, grilling fish better. A lot of them have to do with not drying out the goodness, since few fish we like to grill have anywhere near the fat as even the leanest cut of meat.

Experts, for instance, almost always grill fish fillets with the skin on, to the point that much fish is sold that way. This does indeed protect the fish, holds it together, and also gives the flesh you end up eating a bit more flavor. Skin also, happily, comes off easier once your fish is cooked.

Another secret to good grilling is to briefly marinate the fish (so briefly it’s barely marinating at all) in a mix of oil, citrus juice and whatever spices you enjoy. This also adds some flavor, makes the outside crisp up nicely, but most of all adds moisture. Because you only do this for about 20 minutes, you should have lots of this liquid left to brush on the fish as it grills.

Oiling the grates of your grill before the fish goes on is a nifty trick. But so is using one of those affordable “fish baskets” hanging for sale somewhere in most supermarkets. The fish grillers of pre-history never had such things, of course, mostly threading whole fish onto sticks. But once you get the hang of it, your grilled fish and other seafoods will taste better than any you’ve ever tasted in a restaurant.   

GRILLED SNAPPER TACOS WITH MANGO GINGER HABANERO SLAW

This grilled fish taco recipe works with any mild-tasting, firm, white-fleshed fish, including cod, mahi mahi and tilapia. But since we think of this as a product of the tropics, we prefer to use fresh snapper. Being tacos, these creations are ripe for fanciful improvisation. But if you’re not in the mood, just follow the recipe. Your diners will be very happy.

Sauce:

¼ cup good-quality real mayonnaise

¼ cup dairy sour cream

1/3-1/2 cup Fischer & Wieser’s Mango Ginger Habanero Sauce

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Slaw:

½ small red cabbage, thinly sliced

½ small green cabbage, thinly sliced

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

¼ cup thinly sliced red bell pepper

¼ cup thinly sliced yellow bell pepper

¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Snapper:

1 pound red snapper fillet, skin on

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 ½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon paprika

Salt and black pepper

6 flour or corn tortillas

1 large avocado, sliced

Additional lime juice, if desired

Make the Sauce in a bowl by mixing all ingredients, including Mango Ginger Habanero to taste. Make the slaw by mixing all ingredients in a bowl and tossing with about half the Sauce. Place slaw and sauce in the refrigerator until ready to use. Marinate the fish in a bowl with all its seasonings for about 20 minutes. Then grill till done on a preheated medium-hot grill, about 6 minutes per side. Use a fish basket if preferred.

Lightly mark the tortillas on the grill. Assemble the tacos by dividing the slaw over the tortillas, followed by the sliced avocado. Using a fork or spoon, lift the grilled snapper off the skin and divide among the tacos. Spoon the remaining sauce over the top. Serves 6.

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