From Too Many Chefs -

August 3, 2004
Yet Another Fish Feast

Blancs d'ecornetLast year for the first month in our new apartment we were without a kitchen. We had boxes and appliances in boxes, but no stove, no oven, just a microwave and an electric kettle for cooking. As a result, we bought ourselves a nice grill and did all our cooking outdoors. After ten years of living in Paris with no access to a barbecue, it was heaven. I began then to appreciate the fact that grilling in France can be even better than in Chicago, because of the variety of produce. (Except for good corn on the cob, alas!) Our friend David, whose wife Matina is Greek, introduced us then to the beauty and simplicity of grilled squid. It makes a beautiful photo, too, doesn't it?

Since I started exploring our local market in earnest I have begun making forays into the wonderful world of Fish I Have Never Eaten. Since I come from the Chicago area, where river fish are inedible and ocean fish inaccessible, this encompasses a very large number of species. I am hoping to chronicle some of the experiences - hopefully all positive - here at Too Many Chefs. So above you can see my first purchase of squid. Squid bodies, to be exact. (Blancs d'encornet in French.) When David and Matina brought squid for grilling last summer they were smaller, either babies or a different variety. We marinaded them in olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper and they were tender, a little crispy in places and delicious. The ones you see here were a little tougher. I think next time I'll stick to the small whole ones for grilling and use these large pouches as God obviously intended: for stuffing and baking! Still, they were very tasty and by no means a failure!

The next fish we tried last night was not a complete departure, though it was my first attempt to cook it in France: Rainbow trout. At least, I think it was rainbow trout: the French was Truite la chair rose (pink fleshed) and it looked like rainbow trout to me. As we were grilling the fish whole I disregarded the Critic's suggestion of cooking it with almonds (um, yes, they fall off...) and simply dressed it again with olive oil and lemon juice. I think next time I will pop some fresh herbs in its belly, perhaps thyme. However it too was delicious just simply grilled.

And now we come to the exciting fish, the one that took me a fair bit of web research to discover its English name. In French, it was called a pageot rose and I bought two lovely 8-10 inch fishies with big glossy eyes and slightly pinkish flesh. I discovered it is a species of Sea Bream, although I'm not entirely certain of the exact variety. It seems to be a Blackspot Sea Bream, which you can read about here. I forgot to take a photo of the fish before cooking them, but you can see them on the grill here. I wish I could tell you exactly what spices were rubbed on this fish because it was wonderful, but unfortunately, it was a bag of spices that the Critic brought back from New Zealand for me and the ingredients are not listed. It was a little spicy and might have had some curry-type spices in it. It went very well with the flesh, which was a little dark and very flavourful.

I am fast becoming a big fan of grilled fish, I have to say! I was a bit leery of grilling fish at first because I don't have any of the fancy fish-cages you are supposed to put fish in to grill them. However, as long as you grill them whole (or use squid, which doesn't flake) they stay together just fine and come out with a wonderful slight charred taste. Actually, the easiest part about grilling fish is the fact that I hand the plate of raw fish to the Critic, who does all the work!

One last note: sea bream are not on the Shedd Aquarium Seafood Wallet Card, but it is not on the red list according to most sites I consulted. Rainbow trout are just barely in the green section (yay!) and squid, sadly, are firmly in the yellow section. If anyone out there knows of a similar source of information on fishing practices, but based on European fish, I would be most interested to hear about it!

grilled fish.jpg
Here are the fish on our grill. I wish I had remembered to photograph the trout, in particular, once they were cooked: it looked very pretty with its pink flesh peeking out from the charred skin. We were hungry!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at August 3, 2004 10:17 AM | TrackBack

Wow. Are you sure you don't want to move back here - say... next door so I can come over for a barbecue every evening?

Posted by Barrett on August 3, 2004 at 10:23 AM

Barrett, I think you need to move next door to ME, if you want to experience great fish on the grill every evening. I never managed to work out where to buy fish in the Chicago area, aside from the frozen food section...

Posted by Meg in Paris on August 3, 2004 at 10:32 AM

Campeche on Lincoln is pretty good and the Fulton street area has some good fish places open to the public. The best stuff gets snarfed up by the restaurants, of course, and Campeche is a hike, so I usually end up paying through the nose at Whole Foods.

Posted by Barrett on August 3, 2004 at 10:35 AM

I still think you'd do better to move here if it's fish you want! Did Treasure Island have a food section? I don't remember seeing it, but I was a little afraid of cooking fish (due to inexperience) all those years ago.

Posted by Meg in Paris on August 3, 2004 at 10:39 AM

The squid looks great. I'm a huge squid fan, but I never think of grilling them. I must give this a try.

Posted by Todd on August 3, 2004 at 10:54 AM

My only advice is to get the grill nice and hot before you start grilling them. I think that the more quickly you cook them the more tender they are. Also, the crispy bits are more fun to eat!

Posted by Meg in Paris on August 3, 2004 at 11:04 AM

Barrett, you just need to move to Seattle! I left Chicago in 1999 and never looked back. The abundance of fresh seafood (you must try Yukon King and Coppper River) in Seattle(sustainable crops, organic fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs, flowers, honey, etc.) is truly non-pareil. Not to mention the restaurant scene, one of the most vibrant and exciting in the country.

Posted by Seattle Bon Vivant on August 3, 2004 at 12:35 PM

Meg, your squid story has made me very curious about grilling squid whole. Will look this babies up at the market tomorrow and report back.

Posted by Seattle Bon Vivant on August 3, 2004 at 12:40 PM

I traveled extensively in Italy in '02 and never found calamari cooked any other way but grilled.

Posted by Teree in NOLA on August 5, 2004 at 4:31 PM

Teree - thanks for the input. It's funny that fried calamari is so standard in Italian restaurants outside Italy; maybe it's because the squid gets rubbery regardless of how well it is cooked so you can't tell whether it's fresh? Anyway, I love the fact that it's much less rubbery on the grill!

Posted by Meg in Paris on August 6, 2004 at 4:10 AM