Stuffed and Grilled Whole Fish

Here is another blog post focusing on technique rather than a specific recipe.  Make it your own by basing your ingredient choices on personal preferences and what is freshest at the market. I promise you will be a better cook for it!

For this technique, you’ll make a stuffing by lightly sauteing a mixture of vegetables and tossing them with fresh herbs. You’ll then stuff the mixture into the body of a whole fish along with some citrus, tie it up with some butcher’s twine, and grill it whole. It’s simple, healthy, and delicious.

Choose your fish primarily based on freshness and the number of people you are feeding.  You’ll want to use a type of fish that runs between one and four pounds whole, assuming about one pound per person (remember, with whole fish you’ll have to account for all of the bones, etc.). Black Bass, Sea Bass, Trout, Red Snapper, and Yellowtail all come to mind. This two pound Bass made the perfect dinner for me and my husband.

To choose the best fish, look for those that have bright, clear eyes (rather than grey and blurred). Don’t be afraid to ask what is the freshest! If the fish are not already butterflied, ask your fishmonger to do this for you.  This will remove the unseemly inner bits and the majority of the bones, while leaving the fish in one piece.

Fish on the grill - Stuffed and Grilled Whole Fish

Stuffed and Grilled Fish Technique:

One or more whole fish, butterflied (about 1# per person)

Sauteed vegetables (onions, shallots, fennel, celery, any type of mushroom, garlic, ginger, peppers, spinach, chard, etc.)

Herbs (Italian parsley, cilantro, chives, chervil, rosemary, thyme, basil, tarragon)

Citrus (several slices for the stuffing and enough extra for a generous squeeze over the fish just before you serve it)

Technique:

Preheat your grill over medium heat.  Allow gas grills to heat for a minimum of 15 minutes.

Saute the vegetables in a few tablespoons of butter or oil until softened. I often start with my onions (they can tale a little longer) and then add the other vegetables. Season generously with salt and pepper. Allow to cool slightly and toss in your herbs.

Sauteed Vegetables - Stuffed and Grilled Whole Fish

Sprinkle the fish generously inside and out with salt.  Stuff the cavity with the sauteed vegetable mixture and several slices of citrus. Save some for squeezing over the fish before serving. Tie each fish in 2 or 3 places with butcher’s twine to help hold it together (a fish grilling basket will work great, too).

Rub the skin of the fish with a little oil or melted butter to help prevent sticking.  Place the fish on the grill on one of its sides and close the cover.  Cook for 5-12 minutes, depending on size (for a 1# fish, start with 5-6 minutes, then add about 2 minutes per pound).  Turn the fish over gently using a large grill spatula (or 2 regular-sized spatulas).  Cook for the same amount of time on the second side.

Place the fish on a large platter and snip off the twine.  Squeeze citrus over the fish and top with a few pats of butter, if desired. Serve the fish with a large fork, pulling the meat down and away from the back.  This will expose the stuffing inside, which you can serve alongside your perfectly cooked fish.

At a loss for stuffing ideas? Here are a few ingredient combinations that come to mind:

  • Red Onion, Fennel, Spinach, Orange Slices, Tarragon
  • Shallots, Garlic, Mushrooms, Lemon, Dill
  • Scallions, Ginger, Red Pepper, Lime, Cilantro
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