The boneless fillet is America's favorite form of fish to eat, but it's also the most difficult to grill. The skin and bones are what give fish its structure, so without them the fillet tends to fall apart or stick to the grill -- or both. The secret is to use either a fish basket or fish grate. The rigidity of these keep the fish fillet from breaking, while the holes allow smoke and fire flavors to reach the fish.
Fish basket or fish grate (optional); spray oil (optional)
4 halibut fillets (6 to 8 ounces each)
For the marinade:
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon washed, chopped cilantro root or 1 additional tablespoon cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons sugar
1?4 cup Asian fish sauce or soy sauce, plus more for brushing
3 tablespoons sake, Chinese rice wine, or dry sherry
3 tablespoons Asian (dark) sesame oil, plus more for brushing (optional)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
- Rinse the fish fillets under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels. Arrange the fillets in a nonreactive baking dish just large enough to hold them.
- Prepare the marinade: Pound the garlic, ginger, cilantro leaves and root, if using, and sugar to a paste in a mortar with a pestle (start by pounding the garlic). Or purée in a minichopper or food processor. Work in the fish sauce, sake, sesame oil, salt, and pepper. Spoon the marinade on both sides of the fillets. Cover the fish with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour, turning the fillets once or twice.
- Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. When ready to cook, oil the fish basket, if using, or brush and oil the grill grate (see Note). Place the fillets in the basket. If grilling directly on the grill grate, brush or spray the fillets themselves with oil.
- Place the fish or the fish basket on the hot grate. Grill until each side of the fillets is browned and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Because fish fillets tend to be fragile, I don't generally bother with rotating them to apply a crosshatch of grill marks. If grilling directly on the grate, brush the tops of the fillets with oil before gently turning them with a spatula. To test for doneness, press a fillet with your finger: It should break into clean flakes when fully cooked. Another test is to insert a metal skewer in the side of a fillet. When it is done the skewer will come out very hot to the touch after 20 seconds.
Note: To grill a fish fillet on a fish grate, place the grate on top of the regular grate and preheat to high. Oil the fish grate with a folded paper towel dipped in oil or lift it with tongs and spray with oil. As an added precaution against sticking, brush or spray the fillets themselves with oil. Arrange them on the hot fish grate. Grill the fillets as described in Step 4, turning them with a spatula onto a spot on the fish grate not previously occupied by a fillet. Continue grilling until done.
Click here to find out more about the book this recipe came from, How To Grill, by Steven Raichlen.
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