I have to say, I am really proud of how this dish turned out. I cooked it on a whim after finding whole branzino at my local fish market and couldn’t resist snagging two of them. Turns out I probably should have bought at least double that since the fish flew off the platter so fast I almost didn’t get to eat any of it! These little guys were on the smaller side (a little over 1 lb each), so plan on about 3/4 – 1 lb per person when making this deliciousness.
If you’ve ever tried to grill a fish skin side down, you may understand why I was so hesitant to cook this on the grill. I had horrifying visions of the skin completely stuck to the grill grate and me massacring the fish to try to release it from its metal clutches. When it was time to flip the fish, I took a deep breath and sent up a little prayer. It worked! I have to say this is the first time I’ve ever had absolutely no sticking problems with fish skin on my grill. Aka when I say “high heat” and “lots of olive oil” I really mean it. These two tricks could be the difference between beautiful grill marks and a hot broken (but tasty!) mess.
I adapted this recipe from the master, Bon Appetit.
Serves around 3-4.
- 2 whole branzino (about 1 – 1 1/2 lbs each, cleaned)
- 1 bunch of mint
- 1 bunch of cilantro
- 3″ knob ginger
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 shallot
- 2 limes
- 2-3 fresno chiles
- 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- salt + pepper to taste
Kitchen Tools: grill, toothpicks, fish spatula, microplane, tongs
Heat your grill to high heat. Remove fish from fridge and carefully rinse. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside. Set out two medium-sized bowls for ingredients.
Set aside 5 sprigs of cilantro and 5 sprigs of mint next to the “fish bowl“. Finely chop the rest of the herbs and place in the remaining bowl – we’ll call this the “relish bowl“. Mince your garlic and place half in the fish bowl and half in the relish bowl. Peel the ginger and grate on the microplane. Finely dice your shallot. Again place half of each in the fish bowl and half in the relish bowl.
Mince your chiles and place as much in the relish bowl as you can handle (I used about 2 tsp) and put the rest in the fish bowl. Use your microplane to zest one of the limes into the fish bowl. Cut that lime into slices and squeeze its juice into the relish bowl.
Salt and pepper the inside of your fish and smear (for lack of a better word) the interior with the chopped ingredients from your fish bowl. Tuck the cilantro and mint sprigs into both fish, dividing them evenly. Close up the bellies of the fish with toothpicks. (I used about 4-5 toothpicks per fish)
Use your hands or a pastry brush to evenly coat the outside of the fish with the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with salt on both sides.
Place the fish on the grill and cook with the lid closed for about 5-7 minutes per side. The skin should release on its own when it is ready to be flipped.
While fish is cooking, you’re going to finish the relish. Take your relish bowl and add in the rice vinegar, sesame oil, and remaining 1/3 cup olive oil. Stir it all together with a fork. Slice your remaining lime for people to use at their will on their fish.
When fish comes off the grill, it’s ready to be served!
Tips + Tricks:
- You NEED a really hot grill so that the fish skin doesn’t stick. Trust me on this. You’ll char the fins and whatnot on your fish, but realistically that just makes them all the more tasty!
- I served this dish with coconut rice, which I highly recommend. It added a nice creamy and sweet element that paired nicely.