Barbecued Fish

Psari Psito sta Karvouna

Panagiotis Patiniotis, the owner of a small hotel and tavern in the village of Maltezana on Astypalaia, grills fish better than anyone else I know—in Greece or elsewhere. Panagiotis loves to grill fish, and he looks happy only when he stands by his old and rusted outdoor grill, turning his hinged fish grills over and over again, basting the fish and occasionally spraying the burning charcoal with water to reduce the heat.

It is difficult enough to grill one- or two-pound fish and to keep the fish moist and lightly scented with the wild oregano Panagiotis uses in the oil and lemon basting sauce. But he manages to grill eight- and nine-pound fish in this way, without letting them dry out at all. His trick is to turn the fish every couple of minutes, never letting one or the other side get overcooked.

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Ingredients

  • Lemon juice
  • Red or gray mullet, goatfish, red snapper, sea bream (porgy), striped bass, or any other kind of white fish, preferably no smaller than 1 pound each, cleaned and left whole (about ¾ to 1 pound for each portion)
  • Sea salt

Oil and Lemon Basting Sauce

  • 2 parts olive oil
  • 1 part lemon juice
  • Oregano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

One hour before cooking, pour lemon juice over the fish and turn them so they are moistened all over. Salt generously and set in a cool place or in the refrigerator.

Make the basting sauce by whisking the oil and lemon juice in a bowl. Add the oregano, salt, and pepper.

Prepare the charcoal fire. When ready, place the fish in a well-oiled hinged grill, baste them well with the sauce, and grill about 1 to 2 inches from the heat. The cooking time depends on the thickness of the fish, and you must be very careful not to let them overcook. As a rule, fish need 10 minutes of cooking for every inch of thickness.

While cooking, turn the hinged grill several times and baste the fish, so that they cook on both sides simultaneously.

When the fish are done, transfer them very carefully to a plate, pour a little of the basting sauce over, and serve immediately with the remaining basting sauce on the side.

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