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Hot Summer in the City: Grilled Daurade

So, while I’m currently in Charlotte, NC, for a conference–and managing to enjoy quite a few tasty meals inbetwixt thrilling work stuff–I want to reach back a few weekends ago to a trip Mr. T and I made to visit some friends in the City.

Though our hosts were literally in the midst of moving into their fabulous new home, they managed to shoehorn us all into their very busy schedules and not only did we squeeze in some serious beach time, we also cooked up a simple but mindbendingly gorgeous meal in their brand-new (still totally empty) kitchen.

And, while I am generally thrilled to cook FOR people, rare is the person I can cook WITH. Though I don’t really know him all that well, sadly, I quickly cottoned to the fact that Chef M was someone I’d probably be quite happy to sous for. A rare occurence indeed, as I generally just steamroller people out of their own kitchens. It’s for their own good, really… Shortly after reporting for duty, though, I found that I’d been right, and we fell into a companionable rythm while trimming up a seemingly endless parade of prickly, pain-in-the-arse artichokes.

With the mere handful of of basics from their old kitchen and a few Fresh Direct boxes, Chef M worked wonders–grilled daurade (aka sea bream, aka orata, aka dorata, etc.) along with lots of cold white, those damned grilled artichoke hearts (whose arduous prep was in stark contrast to the easy-breezy fish), and a lush green salad. We finished everything off with peaches and strawberries tossed with a little sugar and a good splash of that cold white–a perfect end to a hot night in the city.

This is, first and formost, a dish that depends on the shopping. You’ll want really fresh fish that have been cleaned to your spec–gutted, scaled, and backfins removed. If your fish market doesn’t have daurade, ask what he’s got that’s fresh and roughly the same size–roughy, for example. You’ll be hard pressed to go wrong.

Oh, and save your verdant green extra virgin olive oil for drizzling on other things. If you don’t have a mild, more refined olive oil–with a correspondingly higher smoke point–just use vegetable oil. I won’t tell anyone.

Grilled Daurade
Yield: 1 serving (easily multiplied)

1 ~1lb daurade, gutted & scaled
~ 2tsp mild olive oil
1/4 lemon, thinly sliced
1 6″ sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Get your mise en place together before unwrapping your school fish. Get out a couple of rimmed baking sheets for transporting things to and from the grill. Pour out the amount of olive oil appropriate for the number of fish you’ve got. Grind the pepper into a small bowl and add the salt. Thinly slice the lemons, trim the rosemary, grab some paper towels, and set everything next to the sink.

Next, prepare the grill to produce a direct, high, heat–probably around 500°F with the lid closed. (We are not messing around, here.) Scrape down the grill plates so they’re as clean as possible.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, unwrap the fish in the sink and rinse inside and out. Pat dry–inside and out–with the paper towels and set on one of the baking sheets. Rub them–again, inside and out–with the oil. Then, gently but generously, rub in the salt and pepper. Stuff the rosemary and a few slices of lemon inside the well-seasoned cavity and repeat with the other fish. Tray up and carry them out to the grill.

Lightly oil the grill plates and put the fish on. Cook, with the lid closed, for about 4-5 minutes. Open the grill–carefully, there will be flare ups from the fat rendering out from the skin–and gently flip the fish. Cook, with the grill open, till cooked through, about 2 min further, depending on their thickness. Once cooked through–the flesh should just be opaque in the center and the front fin should pull off with just the least bit of resistance–quickly remove and serve with addtional lemon, salt, and pepper.

Demolish with hedonistic glee and look out for pin bones.

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