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Whole Fish Aegean Style

Updated: May 11, 2023

with Fennel Slaw....

On the Aegean and the Bosphoros, you can find fishermen hawking their wares to hungry customers. There are fish stalls and boats that sell fish sandwiches right off the water.

The flavors of this region are not heavily spiced and rely primarily on the flavors from fresh herbs and other ingredients. These flavors reflect the sea and sun with citrusy vibrance and incorporate plenty of good olive oil and vegetables in their flavor profiles. This is the heart of the Med, and has infulenced flavors for generations. For this specific dish I like to get a whole fish, dressed. Dressed means that the fish is whole and all the entrails are removed. When I get the fish home, if I am not cooking it right away, I always put it on ice in the same direction it swims. This ensures that all the blood in the fish doesn't sink to one side.

Before you start grilling the fish, assemble the fennel slaw.

Here is what you need:

1/2 bulb of fennel, shaved

1 shaved shallot or 1/2 shaved onion

1/4 c chopped parsley

juice of 1 lemon

3 Tbsp good olive oil

1 tsp honey

2 tsp za'atar

salt and pepper to taste

  1. start by assembling the slaw in a bowl. Wait to dress it until after you have grilled the fish.

  2. in a seperate bowl, whisk lemon juice, honey, olive oil

  3. dress the slaw and sprinkle the Za'atar on top

prep time: 1.5 hours

cooking time: 15 - 20 minutes

preheat the grill

Here is what you need for the fish:

1 medium to large fish (red snapper works really well here), dressed

1 lemon, thinly sliced

1 small red onion or shallot, thinly sliced

the other 1/2 bulb fennel with fronds - thinly sliced

1/4 c olive oil

2 tsp. each, thyme, marjoram and other fresh herbs

salt & pepper to taste

  1. Start by removing the fish and drying it well with paper towels. This ensures that all the olive oil and seasoning can stick to it without just rolling off.

  2. Next, start by opening the fish and sliding a knife in between the spine and one side of the ribcage, seperating the rib bones from the spine. Slice slightly upward to create a deeper cavity. With the knife parallel to the spine, slice all the way towards the tail.

  3. Season the inside of the fish with salt and pepper and the Aegean blend. Stuff the cavity with the onion, lemon, and fennel fronds. Truss the fish in butcher twine to hold all the aromatics in. Alternativley you can also hold the sides together with skewers. You can pause here and assemble your fennel slaw.

  4. Now here, you can either roast it or grill it. I prefer to grill it. However, if you want to roast it, roast it at 375 for 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily. - If you decide to grill it he best method is to use a fish grilling basket. These are fairly inexpensive. However, if you are like me and have a penchant, doing things at the last minute, then you can always wrap the fish in foil or, my personal favorite, grape leaves.

  5. Grill for about 20 minutes turning once.

Enjoy this dish outside on a sunny day and don't be shy about using your fingers. If you want to serve it with drinks, serve with white wine, rose or Raki

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