Grilled Fish: Psari sta Karvouna: Ψαρι στα Καρβουνα
Freshness is the key - from hook to heat. I learned at a very young age (about 4 or 5) from my father that a fire had to be built before we tossed our fishing lines in the water. Maybe it was his power of positive thinking that we'd score a good catch, but his method was to have a really hot fire at-the-ready; then catch, clean and grill immediately. Not sure where he learned this from, maybe someone Greek.
The Mediterranean diet is largely based on Greek and Cretan cuisine. It's no surprise since Greece is made up of many islands, that fish is one of the most popular proteins in the Greek diet. With such a moderate climate most of the year and very hot summers, grilling is of course very common. There are no fancy sauces or marinades required in Greek cuisine, it's just a matter of letting the flavor of the fish come through. All that is needed is a couple of the same simple ingredients that will go well with any fish. Charcoal or wood fired grills are more common, but using a gas grill with a few wood chips offers the same results.
The experience of dining al fresco at a waterside tavernera (a small Greek restaurant) in Greece is a relaxed, carefree eating experience. First order an ice cold Mythos Beer, after all you'll need to quench your thirst since it's quite hot. Nibble on tzatziki + flat breads while your fish is being prepared. Enjoy a simple but crisp Greek salad with your grilled fish. After a fresh and healthy dining experience like this you'll feel like you can run up Mount Olympus. Well, maybe.
Greek Translations When Preparing Fish On The Grill:
- Psari - meaning, one fish
- Psaria - meaning, more than one fish
- Psaria Sti Shara - meaning, fish on the grill
- Psito Psari (Ψαρι στα Καρβουνα) meaning, grilled fish
This is the traditional method of grilling fish in Greece. The most authentic Greek recipe for preparing any kind of fish is very simple; Olive oil, fresh lemon juice, sea salt, Greek oregano (rigani) or thyme, and fresh ground black pepper. Use thin lemon slices to place on top of the fish while grilling for added moisture and complementary flavoring.
To Prepare The Fish:
If using small to medium whole fish, scrape off scales and carefully make a slit into the underbelly (this can be done by your fish monger) to remove intestines, leaving head intact. Rinse well and pat dry.
Pre heat grill to high heat.
Lightly season the fish with sea salt; both on the inside and outside of the whole fish, or both sides of fish steaks. Brush fish with olive oil and lemon juice, and sprinkle with coarsely ground oregano or thyme and fresh ground black pepper.
Brush the grid or grill with olive oil to prevent sticking, and grill the fish, turning once to grill evenly on both sides. Turn after 4-5 minutes, and continue cooking 4-5 minutes or until fish is done. Fish is done when flesh is firm and just about ready to flake.
Non On-The-Grill Option:
Not to worry if you are a little intimidated about cooking a whole fish directly on the grill. There are a number of non stick fish baskets on the market, or you can use my 'fish on foil' method. Take a piece of foil slightly larger than your fish. Spray with a non-stick spray or olive oil. Place fish on foil, and season as above. Wrap loosely and place fish on a very hot grill turn after 4-5 minutes and continue cooking 4-5 minutes or until fish is done. Fish is done when flesh is firm and just about ready to flake.
Important TIPS: Allow for carry-over cooking (this is the residual heat that will keep cooking the fish after removal from grill).
Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish, in addition to outside temperature + the exact temperature of the grill.
- Fish gutted, scaled and cleaned.
- Select small whole fish under 2 pounds. Large fish should be filleted or cut into steaks.
- Score the sides of fish with 2 or 3 diagonal cuts.
- Season well, inside and out.
- Make a basting marinade for the fish - 3 parts olive oil to 1 part fresh lemon juice.
- Brush both sides with the marinade.
- Brush the grill or the fish rack with oil.
- Occasionally brush fish with marinade to prevent it from drying out.
- Exact grilling time depends on the thickness of the fish.
- When the fish is cooked, serve with lemon and olive oil and drizzle over fish.