A grilled fish should be moist inside, crisp outside and fragrant all over. In Nice, loup de mer, dorades, pageots, and rougets are brushed with olive oil, stuffed with dried fennel branches, and cooked over wood fires sprinkled with dried herbs. Often, since they have been caught that very morning, they are neither gutted nor scaled. This is a simple but perfect way to eat fresh fish.
Bass, porgies, and red mullet are delicious prepared with fennel seed and a little savory and broiled, if it is not possible to have a wood fire. You may want to place two thin slices of Beurre d’Anchois over each fish just before serving or to pass a bowl of Sauce Jaune et Verte, Rouille, Aïoli, Sauce Citronnette, Sauce Dorée, Sauce Tartare, or Sauce Verte, to spread on the grilled fish. Serve the fish with Riz aux Herbes Courgettes Râpées, Pommes de Terre à l’Ail, or Champignons Farcis.
Clean and dry the fish. Cut a few slashes on the sides of each fish with a sharp knife (to allow it to cook evenly, to prevent it from curling as it cooks, and to let the flavor of the herbs penetrate it).
Sprinkle the inside with fennel seed, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and savory and rub the outside with the same ingredients. Stuff the fish with fresh or dried fennel stalks. Sprinkle olive oil over both sides of each fish and wrap loosely with vine or lettuce leaves, which will protect the fish from the heat for a few minutes and keep the flesh moist; as the fish grills they will crumble away.
If the fish are small and thin, put them on a hamburger wire grill. If you have larger fish, use the fish-shaped wire baskets, which will hold them securely and allow proper cooking.
When your wood or charcoal fire is ready (with a fine bed of embers), sprinkle on it a pinch of dried herbs, then place the wire basket over it and cook the fish for about 10 minutes on one side. Turn them over and cook the other side for 10 to 15 minutes more. The entire cooking time will vary between 20 to 30 minutes, according to the thickness of the fish. The flesh will flake easily and become opaque when cooked.
Place the fish on a warm serving platter and surround with watercress or parsley and sliced lemons.
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