Monday, May 23, 2011

Grilled branzini シーバスの焼き物

A new gourmet grocery store opened a few weeks ago. It is actually within walking distance. The store has been extremely popular, creating traffic jams and requiring police to direct traffic in and out of the underground parking garage. In any case, this has provided us with another venue to indulge our love of cooking--and eating. Among the other gourmet and international food items offered at the store are such "must haves" as ostrich and emu eggs (haven't tried them yet--still looking for recipes). The fish and meat sections are better than usual. Specifically they have whole fresh fish. The day we shopped, there were 5 kinds of whole fresh fish on display in large buckets packed with ice in front of the usual glass cases displaying fish fillets. At least we could smell and closely inspect the fish. We could have even touched them if we wanted but we hope not too many shoppers will do that. Among the five kinds offered, Branzini (or bronzini) looked best with nice clear eyes. Others such as large red snapper and black bass had cloudy eyes and did not look as good. Branzini is not a particularly interesting fish but we decided to get it.  Another name of Branzini is European sea bass. I suppose it is similar to Japanese sea bass or "suzuki" スズキ but to determine what is the Japanese equivalent and vise versa for fish is difficult, if not impossible.

We had it scaled and gutted but left the tail and head on (see below left). We like whole fish simply grilled on a charcoal fire. So, I just seasoned it with salt and pepper inside and out and stuffed the cavities with chopped fennel (including the feathery leaves), red onion, and slices of lemon a few hours before grilling (kept in the fridge). I cooked the fish on a direct hot charcoal fire (see below right) in a Weber kettle. I coated the skin with olive oil and used a special Weber-brand spray on the grill to prevent the skin from sticking.

I grilled the fish for 3-4 minutes per side covered with the lid half of the time to assure the meat was done before the skin got totally singed.

As you can see in the first image, I served it with spinach (briefly boiled, seasoned with soy sauce and bonito flakes wrapped in nori sheet and garnished with sesame seeds) and blanched broccolini with mustard soy sauce. I even did a decorative cut on the lemon (somewhat dated, about on par with that old warhorse sprigs of parsley garnish (not used here BTW, but, hey, it looks good).

Somehow, it is nice to have a whole fish. I just can not trust the freshness of filleted fish for one thing. Grilling fish with bone-in appears to add something and a fish head is always decorative (for Japanese particularly). Of course, the skin is always our favorite part.

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