By Michael Elmore
My dad’s birthday was a couple of weeks’ ago (Happy Birthday, dad!), and what better way to celebrate a summer birthday by grilling up a storm. We made a number of dishes, but the favorites may surprise you: grilled portabellas and cauliflower, and grilled whole fish.
While a rib eye maintained its well earned love by my mother and me, my father prefers lighter meats, such as fish, and has a passion for vegetables without rival. To be sure, between the tender flesh of the branzini and the smokey, melt-in-your-mouth mushrooms, nobody will miss red meat if you decide to just go with those items for your next cook out and ahead of the Fourth.
Chili Spiced Portabella Caps
- 4 portabella caps, stems removed (reserve these for another use such as making vegetable stocks, or dicing and sauteing them as a topping for a burger).
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Mix all ingredients except the mushrooms together in a bowl to make a thick paste – add more vegetable oil if needed.
- Slather the mushrooms evenly with the paste, and place in a plastic bag up to overnight so that they absorb the flavors.
- When ready to cook, on a hot, well-oiled grill, over direct heat, cook the mushrooms for approximately 3 minutes per side, trying to flip the mushroom as infrequently as possible as the flames allow.
- Serve immediately – if desired, squeeze some lime juice on top before serving.
Grilled Whole Branzini
- 2 whole branzini – ask your fishmonger to clean and gut these for you.
- 2 lemons, sliced
- 1 bunch of cilantro, trimmed and cleaned
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- 1 tsp pepper, divided,
- 1 tbsp cumin, divided
- 2 teaspoon chili powder, divided
- vegetable oil
- Several hours before you wish to grill, take the whole branzini and rinse them under cold water, making sure the fishmonger did not leave any remnants of unpleasantness in them and that the fish is entirely de-scaled. If not, de-scale the fish by running the back of a knife against the fish to get any missed scales.
- Make sure you have everything prepped ahead of time. Squeeze some vegetable oil throughout the fish (we did this previously out of video).
- With your CLEAN hand, sprinkle the seasonings evenly among both fish and the cavities of both fish. Stuff the fish with lemon slices and cilantro sprigs – as many as you can fit without the herbs and fruit spilling out.
- Wrap butcher’s twine around the fish to keep everything inside of it. Place covered in fridge until ready to grill and up to overnight.
- When grilling, make sure you oil the fish (again) very liberally, that the grill is very well oiled, and that you are working on high, direct heat. This will all prevent the fish from sticking. Grill for approximately 4-5 minutes on each side. The fish should not stick when you flip it over if it is cooked and you’ve done all these steps. If you do not feel like dealing with risk of a sticky fish, use a cedar or other wood plank pursuant to their directions and cook the fish on top of that. This will take longer but will still be delicious.
- Remove the fish and serve with a squeeze of lemon. Remember to be wary of bones!