Time and time again while visiting Greece, I love visiting the markets with all the fresh fruits and vegetables, listening to the butchers tout their meats and inspecting the catch of the day at the fish and seafood shops.
Unlike in North America where the norm is to view and purchase filleted fish, here in Greece the norm is the opposite – fresh whole fish, with the head on it. As a consumer, you want to see the whole fish before buying as this allows you to inspect the fish and ensure it’s the freshest.
Your sense of smell will never fail you, sniff the fish and it should only smell of the sea – NOTHING ELSE. Leave it alone if it’s fishy. Touch the fish, it should be firm and the surface a little slimy. Look the the eyes, they should be clear and not sunken in. Finally, lift the gills, they should be bright red inside…a sign that they are fresh.
Before leaving for Greece, I found some lovely whiting – a long, slender fish that’s part of the cod family. They are usually 5-7 inches in length but sometimes you do find big ones…save those for a larger gathering or to make a fish soup.
Whiting are a mild fish, usually I fry them with a light dredging of flour but I think you should try them grilled and this is a fish to cook if you want someone to try fish but they are shy of strong fish flavours.
Inspired by the method from the Cyclades islands called “gouna”, where they butterfly mackerel, season the fish with sea salt and oregano and sun-dry them in the sun. Toronto doesn’t have a hot dry sun to pull this off but you can still get some of these flavours and the butterflied “gouna” look of the fish makes for a great presentation.
Grilled Butterflied Whiting With Lemon & Oregano
8 medium-sized whiting
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tsp. dried Greek oregano
zest of 2-3 lemons
scallions or garlic scapes
- Have your fish monger scale and gut your whiting. Rinse the fish (inside and out) and turn on its back. Use a sharp knife to cut open the fish from the cavity to almost the tail. Now turn the fish so the spine is facing up and gently press down on the spine to flatten the fish. You now have a butterflied fish. Repeat with remaining fish.
- Rub olive oil all over the fish and season well with salt and pepper. Now season the inside parts of the fish with oregano and lemon zest and place in the fridge (covered) for an hour (remove from fridge and allow 15 minutes for fish to come to room temperature).
- Pre-heat your gas grill to medium-high and cover. Once hot, brush the grill surface until clean. Wet some paper towel with vegetable and wipe/lubricate your grill surface (this prevents the fish from sticking).
- Place the whiting flesh side down and grill for 4 minutes then carefully flip and grill the skin side for three minutes. Carefully transfer to a plate (flesh side up for presentation purposes).
- Toss your garlic scapes or scallions in some oil, season with salt and pepper and rub some oil on lemon halves and sprinkle some sugar on the exposed halves. Grill until just charred and serve as garnishes with your butterflied whiting. Pour Latholemono sauce on fish.
- Serve a side of boiled greens like Vlita and or some boiled zucchini and serve with a crisp Papargyriou Muscat/Assyrtiko white.
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