Who doesn’t love a good seafood feast? Here in Australia, this time of year is beach weather,
and seafood is commonplace.
We normally cook whole fish lying on one side, but this leads to problems: the fish does not
cook evenly, it is hard to manage, and it is hard to serve the underside. Because of uneven
cooking, the bottom side gets overcooked and may be dry, unappetising, and chewy.
Cooking the fish standing up solves these problems. It’s easy to cook, almost guarantees a perfect result, and provides an eye-popping gorgeous dish that will be talked about for months.
This will change the way you cook whole fish and may turn you into a hero.
Have your raw fish gutted and scaled. I’m using Red Emperor, arguably one of the best eating
fish in Western Australia and the king of the tropical snapper family.
Step 1: Break the Spine of the Fish
Just before you are about to cook, you need to break the spine. Firmly grip the fish by the head and tail, then push the two together to stretch the spine. It takes some strength, and keeping hold of the slippery fish can be a challenge, but keep pushing until you hear the faint click of the spine separating.
Once the spine is broken the fish can be placed in a curve that allows it to stand up of its own accord.
Step 2: Truss the Fish to Hold the Curve
To stabilise the fish in the barbecue, roll a loose ball of foil ball and place it under the fish.
This also lifts the fins above the grill so they don’t stick to it as the fish cooks.
To keep the whole thing stable, flatten the foil ball a little on the bottom.
To hold the tail in a curve as the fish cooks, I make a simple sling from butchers’ twine to pull
the tail in towards the head.
Step 3: Season and Bake
Set the barbecue to 180 degrees C (356 degrees F) with indirect heat.
Dust the fish with salt and pepper.
Place the fish on the barbecue, positioning it so there is not much direct flame on the fish.
Step 4: Cooking the Fish
Cook the fish till the internal temperature measured in the thickest part reaches 63–70 degrees C
(145–158 degrees F). Don’t go over 70 degrees C (158 degrees F), or the fish will start to lose moisture
My 3-kilogram (6.6-pound) Red Emperor took 50 minutes to cook.
Once the fish is done, it’s time to cut the sling holding the tail and make up your platter.
Step 5: Dress the Platter and Serve
Make a bed of lettuce and trendy salad leaves on a platter.
Stand the fish on top of the leaves.
Fill around the platter with seafood and salad components, I used prawns, avocado, tomato,
and pickles, but you can use whatever you like: crab pieces, lobster, oysters, you get the idea.
Step 6: Open the Fish for Service
Carry it out to the table and wait for the applause.
To serve, I just cut along the spine and down behind the gills. This gives me a small flap to fold over and expose
the moist steaming flesh This just gives your guests a look at the flesh and a place to start taking portions.
After that everyone can just dig in
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