Cooking with Whole Fish

Better Nutrition|August 2020

Cooking with Whole Fish
Up your grilling game this summer with this heart-healthy recipe.
JONNY BOWDEN, PHD, CNS, AND JEANNETTE BESSINGER, CHHC

Years ago, when I was struggling to come up with my own set of ethics when it came to eating animals, I came across this passage: “If you’re used to preparing fish that’s already been filleted, I highly recommend grilling a whole fish at least once. It will give you an immediate sense of your food’s animal origins, and the flavors and eating experience are somehow elevated. I can’t explain it, but you’ll know what I mean when you try it.”

That passage was wise and prophetic. It addressed the very nature of our relationship with the things that we eat. It suggested that by being more in touch with the source of our food, we could deepen our relationship with that food, enrich our experience of eating it, and perhaps even make more conscious choices about what exactly to include and exclude from our diets.

It might not surprise you to learn that this passage was written by Chef Jeannette Bessinger. And what she says is true. The process of grilling the whole fish does somehow enhance the experience. Just give it a try, and you’ll see.

Notes from the Clean Food Coach:

Tips for choosing a good grilling fish:

Choose a mild fish and make sure it’s ultra-fresh. It should smell clean, not at all fishy, and the eyes should be clear, not heavily clouded over. Plan to buy it (or catch it) the same day you cook it.

Ask if the fish seller has any local catch in the back. Often these are the best fish, but they aren’t on display because people generally ask for the more expensive, imported choices.

To support more even grilling, choose a few smaller fish (2–2.5 pounds, at least 2 inches thick) rather than one large one.

Unless you know how to do it yourself, ask that your fish be gutted and scaled for you, with the head and tail left intact.

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August 2020