We are big fans of Michael Ruhlman and regularly read his food blog, which is where Dan discovered that “branzini” is a really easy and tasty fish to grill. Â We’re always trying to work new fish recipes into our weekly menu routine, but it can be difficult because I’m not a big fan. Â But we are mindful of the health benefits of eating fish on a regular basis, so we continue searching for good fish dishes — especially ones that don’t involve breading or heavy sauces that cancel out the beneficial aspects. Â We have some old favorites (here and here), but this grilled branzini may be the most healthy — and still delicious — we have tried to date. Â It is also ridiculously easy.
In our experience, branzini (also referred to as “branzino” or “Mediterranean seabass”)Â can be somewhat hard to find. Â We found these at Whole Foods (although not all Whole Foods have it.)Â The store had these branzini ready for the grill — gutted, gilled and scaled (thank goodness.)
It is somewhat daunting to see the face of your food before you cook and eat it. Â This guy seemed blissfully unaware.
But this one made me a little sad — look at his frowny face. Â As if he realized what a bad day it was turning out to be for him. Â Sorry Buddy.
Sprinkle the fish generously with salt, inside and out, then allow it to rest in the fridge for about an hour. Â As with most new-to-us recipes, we did a bit of research before cooking the branzini. Â Dan read somewhere that a guy’s grandmother told him to always salt the fresh whole fish before cooking it. Â We figured it’s a pretty good general rule to follow the cooking advice of grandmothers.
Next, prepare the aromatics that will go inside the branzini. Â We used red onion (sliced into thin strips), lemon (cut into thin half-moon slices) and sprigs of parsley. Â But you can use whatever you like or happen to have on hand.
Stuff the aromatics into the cavity of each fish.
Drizzle a generous amount of good olive oil over both sides of each fish to help keep it from sticking to the grill grates. Â It is also important to grease the grill grates a bit — either by spraying the grates with nonstick grilling spray, or rubbing them with a paper towel dipped in oil (using tongs.)
Another tip we learned from Ruhlman is to press the fish against the grates immediately after placing the fish on the grill. Â This will sear the fish skin and help keep it from sticking. Â Grill the branzini over medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, turning once.
Dan used a combination of tongs and a spatula thingy to turn the fish, and was able to flip each one over without any problem. Â (Flipping Technique Patent Pending.)
We served the fish with grilled bread, a tomato salad, and this sauce, (from SimplyRecipes, another favorite recipe site.) Â We prepared the sauce just in case the branzini was too fishy for me, but I can honestly say that while the sauce was delicious, I didn’t need it. Â The fish was really good on its own — light and flaky with subtle flavor from the aromatics and the grill. Â Rather than serving on individual plates, we ate family-style right off the cutting board that Dan used to bring in the fish from the grill. Â It was a fun and different way to eat dinner, and we imagined ourselves being on vacation by the sea, where a friendly fisherman grilled up our fresh catch of the day.