PERHAPS ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE EATING EXPERIENCES I HAVE EVER HAD IN SPAIN WAS IN THE BASQUE COASTAL VILLAGE OF GETARIA. IT’S A SMALL TOWN WHERE LOCALS DESCEND TO EAT CHARGRILLED FISH BY THE SEA. RESTAURANTS LINE THE COURSE OF A LONG-BURIED STREAM THAT FLOWS UNDER THE ARCH OF THE CHURCH BY THE HARBOUR. BY NOON EVERY DAY THE CHARCOAL IN THE OUTSIDE GRILLS IS BLAZING; BY LUNCHTIME AT 2 PM THEIR FIERCE HEAT HAS DIED DOWN AND FLAT FISH ARE BEING COOKED IN BLACKENED FISH BASKETS OVER COALS. I ORDERED THE TURBOT, WHICH LOOKS LIKE A GIANT FLOUNDER. I WATCHED THE OWNER OF ELKANO, PEDRO ARREGUI, SALT THE TURBOT INSIDE AND OUT, SQUIRTING IT WITH A SALTY MARINADE FROM A SQUEEZE BOTTLE. WHEN IT WAS COOKED HIS SON AITOR GAVE US A GUSTATIONARY TOUR AROUND THE FISH, ENCOURAGING US TO COMPARE THE TASTE OF THE DIFFERENT PARTS. THE FLESH NEAR THE DORSAL SPINES WAS SWEET AND GELATINOUS, THE MEAT FROM THE BELLY MOIST AND SWEET. I HAVE TESTED THEIR SQUEEZE-BOTTLE MARINADE TECHNIQUE WITH SNAPPER — AND BELIEVE ME, YOU WILL APPRECIATE FISH DIFFERENTLY AFTER EATING THIS.
Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut all the fins off each fish. Pat dry with paper towel, then season inside and out with plenty of sea salt. Oil a fish rack or other flameproof cooking rack with olive oil.
Put the lemon juice, garlic cloves, jamón and 1 tablespoon fine sea salt in a squeeze bottle, add
Heat your coals to a temperature where you can only hold your hand
Place the fish on a large serving plate and dress again with a few squirts of the marinade. Serve immediately, with a little of the cooking juices spooned over the fish just before eating. Enjoy with a crisp acidic white wine such a new riesling or a Spanish txacoli. Any leftover marinade will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.
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