1 fresh, Greek aquaculture Pagrus (600-800 gr)
50 ml. extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1. Clean the grill
Your first job is to carefully and thoroughly clean the grill you will be using. That is one of the secrets of preparing chargrilled fish. When the metal becomes hot, if not clean, the skin and flesh of the fish will definitely stick to the grill, so it needs to be spotless! Use a brush, wire, grease-remover (spray) or regular dish-washing liquid. Your grill must be sparkling clean before you start cooking.
2. Prepare the charcoal
Spread and light the charcoal and wait until the edges have turned gray and the ash spreads and covers the pieces of charcoal (or briquettes). An indication for when the charcoal is ready for cooking is that you are able to place your hand over it and keep it there fairly comfortably for 7’’; at this stage, the charcoal will be pretty much white.
3. Prepare the fish
Do NOT slice through the fish’s skin with a sharp knife, as a lot of people do, in order to ensure it “will cook well”; doing that will only ensure that it dries up! The fish needs to be left alone – gutted and scaled- and to be baked on a medium to low heat. The only thing you need to do is brush some olive oil onto its skin.
4. Choose the grilling method (alternatives below)
Your first alternative is to use a hand-held grill (don’t forget it has to be spotlessly clean!). You place the fish in this grill and then turn it as it bakes resting on the barbecue grill. This is safest, easiest option for a beginner.
The second option is to place the fish directly onto the barbecue’s scalding grill. It is the ideal option if you are using a covered, American-style barbecue. You will definitely need a good quality, flexible, metal spatula to turn the fish.
5. Bake the fish
When grilling the fish try to minimize the amount of turning as your material is very sensitive… Ideally, grill one side, then flip to the other. The magical number of minutes per side is relative. Only with a thermometer and with lots of practice will you be able to really know, but an educated guess for Pagrus is 6-9 minutes per side, if the charcoal is well heated.
For a perfectly grilled Pagrus you will have to use a thermometer and aim for 60°C at the center of the fish,when the protein in its flesh turns from semi-translucent to white.
6. Cut open and bone the fish
After the fish is ready, use the spatula to move it to a large serving dish. Take a large sharp knife and a fork and cut it open to remove the bones as you best can. The simplest solution is to cut across its side along the central fishbone and flip the two sides open to reveal the bone.
Mix 3 parts of olive oil with 1 part lemon juice and whisk with a fork until blended. Add a sprinkling of fleur de sel. Ideally accompany your Pagrus with boiled greens.