I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people for whom barbecue season lasts well into the fall. In fact during July and August, standing over the grill can get a little sweaty for my tastes. In September & October though, when the air is a little more …. crisp, that’s my favorite time to light up the charcoal.
As I said in the last post, grilling fish can be tricky. It tends to stick to the grates and breaks apart, excuse me, “flakes” easily. Oh there are tips and tricks to improve your results. A grill that has good, even heat helps. And it’s best to have heavier, seasonable grill grates as opposed to the ones that look like wire refrigerator shelves, like the ones on my grill.
You can avoid all the issues of sticking, breaking and pieces falling through the grates with the use of a grill basket.
These things make grilling fish a much simpler process. Sure, you won’t get those signature grill marks on your fish when you use a basket, but how often do we really get nice looking marks when we are grilling fish at home?
What you will get is that delicious smoky flavor and if the grill is hot enough you can get a good char on your fish, which is also delicious.
Some fish grilling baskets come in an oval shape to accommodate a single filet. However I suggest you find a larger one that can also hold other items like vegetables and fruits along with the fish. That’s another benefit of a basket, you can put your whole meal in there and grill it at the same time. Plus you can use the basket to hold flavoring items pressed against the fish such as herbs, onions or citrus slices. Lemon slices allowed to char up against the fish as it cooks on the grill add a delicious flavor.
I love bringing a loaded grill basket when I’m a guest at barbecues. It’s fun to bring freshly caught fish to a BBQ but it can be a real pain for me and the hosts for the reasons I mentioned before. With the basket you need not have to worry about the aforementioned grill issues, plus you can load it up and make your contribution a more complete dish.
Recently I marinated some salmon in yogurt, lime juice, mint, cilantro, garlic and garam masala, loaded in a basket with sliced onions and nectarines and brought that to a friends East Indian themed BBQ party. I carried it in the back of my car on a sheet pan (cookie sheet) covered with foil. At the party I cooked it on their grill without dirtying it up at all, and set the whole basket back on the sheet pan when I put it on the food table. I only needed to pop the top off the basket and let everyone help themselves.
I’m nothing if not easy.
You only need to follow a couple quick rules when using a basket. First you still need to lubricate the fish. My standard, go-to fish seasoning/coating of chopped garlic, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper & olive oil, works perfectly well for the grill.
Second, keep in mind that fish cooks quickly, so you need to make sure the veggies and/or fruits will cook in about the same time. Most fruits “soft” and thin vegetables like tomatoes, summer squashes, asparagus, peppers & sliced onions can go in raw. The harder stuff like potatoes, root vegetables and autumn squashes will need to be blanched, that is pre-cooked until they are just barely done, before going in the basket
Just set the basket on the grill, flip it over when it looks ready and cook the other side. If you like you can always (carefully, it’s hot) open the top of the basket, pull a piece of the fish apart slightly to see if it’s done.
That’s it! No recipes and rambling stories this time. Just a simple descriptive with some photos for a little Pavlovian stimulus.
Don’t worry, I’m not out of stories or other examples of my special flavor of wisdom by a long shot. I will continue to fling them like monkey poo in your direction in upcoming posts. So be ready to duck.
Until then, go get your grill-on.