by Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, Lincoln Land Community College
Labor Day signals the end of summer. A national congression to quit doing things outdoors and stop wearing white pants. Personally I find it hard to give up summer, and I want to spend every free minute enjoying the last of the good weather. Also, I have sworn to (try to) never complain about how hot it gets when I know how bitterly cold it will be when winter arrives.
So during these early days of fall (in Illinois it’s called third and fourth summer) you will find me in front of the grill. This is where I am most content, and this is where I most enjoy cooking my favorite protein, seafood! When I seafood I eat it, but not all fish is created equal. With creativity and technique all shellfish and finfish can be cooked outdoors. If you cook on charcoal or gas there are a few tricks that will make grilling fish a little easier.
Steak-like fish can be cooked directly over the hot coals. Swordfish, shark, mahi-mahi, salmon, tuna and marlin are good choices. Marlin tends to dry out quickly and can be a challenge to grill. Shark can be a little tough, but a couple hours in buttermilk will change that. Fresh, quality salmon, tuna and swordfish can be eaten like a steak to a degree of doneness of your liking – rare, medium-rare etc.
Shellfish, like sea scallops, shrimp and lobster, love the grill, or I love to grill them I should say. Oysters and clams are great too. Place them over direct heat and remove them once their shells begin to open. Mix a few drops of liquid smoke in your favorite cocktail sauce and devour these grilled crustaceans on a piece of crusty bread. One tip that works well for scallops and lobster is to use two skewers before grilling. Push two skewers through a lobster tail to prevent it from curling over the heat. Thread as many scallops that will fit on two skewers. This will make it easier to turn as they will not spin around the way they would if they were on just one skewer, plus it looks really cool.
Delicate fish can be more of a challenge. Heat one side of the grill on high and cook fish like flounder, perch and orange roughy on the cool side of the grill with the lid closed. I recommend cooking them on a foil pan or in a parchment pouch as they will flake apart the moment they are done cooking.
Always sprinkle a little sea salt and pepper on your seafood and brush with olive oil and/or melted butter before grilling. Shellfish and steak-like fish take just a few minutes per side over high heat – lobster will take longer if grilling a large tail. For delicate fish it may take up to 10 or 15 minutes to cook over indirect heat depending on your grill. If cooking in a pan or small sheet tray, try splashing a little white wine and olive oil in the pan. This will help the fish from flaking apart. For grilling in parchment try this recipe.
Snapper in Papillote
pronounced like pappy yōt
*1 large piece of parchment paper
*2 portions of fresh snapper (6 ounce each)
*1 ounce dry white wine
*1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
*1 ounce olive oil (or 2 tablespoons of butter “pats”)
*1 tablespoon of fresh herbs, basil, thyme, parsley and/or dill
*8 ounces of julienne cut vegetables like carrots, squash, onion, peppers or even diced tomato
*Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Pre-heat one side of your grill on high heat. Fold the parchment paper in half, width-wise and cut half a “heart” shape. Unfold the paper and now you should have a giant heart, so hug your kids and kiss your guests. Mix the veggies and herbs with a little salt and pepper and place on one half of the heart. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the fish and place them side-by-side on the veggies. Top each with a piece of butter or a drizzle of olive oil. Fold the heart over itself and starting at the bottom of your heart begin to crimp and fold the edges to seal it up. The folds should be almost two inches in length and each new fold should overlap the last fold. This will seal up the heart, but don’t fold all the way yet. Add the wine and citrus juice before closing it up all the way.
I recommend placing the Papillote on a foil pan or sheet tray that will fit in the grill. Bake for about 15 minutes on the cold side of the grill. Use two forks and pierce the center of the paper and pull apart to check if the fish is done. If not, no worries. Simply close the lid for a few more minutes, or for a bonus, throw some wood chips on the hot side of the grill before closing the lid and then 3 minutes later WOW!
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.