Vail chef shares grilling tips for fish
Sunshine, warmth, friends and family: It’s grill-time.
Though there are many year-round grillers — those dedicated citizens who step outside in freezing temps and tend whatever is sizzling away on the grates — summer and fall bring everyone to the open flame. We eschew the long braises and slow cookery of winter’s traditional ingredient lineup, and instead focus on the seeming miracle of ripe produce that needs only a glance of heat and some simple seasoning to shine. And though burgers might be the de facto choice to center the plate, fish is just as easy — and epitomizes the lightness of the season.
Dimitri Souvorin has never had a non-culinary job. No newspaper route, no construction gig, no snowboard-instructor stint. Cooking since before he hit double digits, he’s beyond comfortable in a busy kitchen, putting out hundreds of meals in an evening. But when he heads home, he’s more likely to fire up the grill on his deck than turn on the stove. And his favorite thing to toss on the barby?
“I love grilling fish,” Souvorin said.
Which is a good thing, as he’s the executive chef at Montauk Seafood Grill. His advice?
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“Go easy,” he advised. “Be gentle. A really hot grill makes those dark grill marks which we might want on a steak, but they can overpower fish. You want to go slow. Ease down, take your time, don’t overcook it. Most fish is great to be eaten with a little bit of color, some translucence or glassiness is what you’re looking for — especially if you’re buying good quality fish. If you’re not sure, break it open, take a little peek inside. I’ve been grilling fish my whole life and I still crack it open.”
Like most things, fish will continue to cook after it’s taken off the grill, so some transparency is good in the flesh. And while Souvorin loves to cook any and everything on the grill — including shrimp and crab in their shells — he recommends starting with salmon. It’s a pretty forgiving fish, in terms of cookery.
The chef and grill master doesn’t recommend only going easy on the fish — go easy on yourself, too. Grilled fish doesn’t need to be complicated. Keep it simple, keep it fresh.
“It’s really all about sweetness and acid,” he explained. “Fish is always made better with a little acid, that’s why everyone squeezes lemon on their fish. It freshens it up, intensifies the flavors.”
At Montauk, they serve their grilled fish with a pineapple salsa, which offers sweetness, acidity and heat. Fruit salsas are cutting-board affairs,
and can be punched up with a smack of herbs or chiles.
“It’s just fruit, cilantro, a little bit of red onion, some lime,” he said. “Any very simple fresh fruit salsa brightens up a piece of fish. You can use any kind of fruit. And remember, tomatoes are fruit. Cucumbers are fruit.”
He might just as easily use watermelon and mint instead of pineapple and cilantro. The important thing is that it’s fresh and complements the fish instead of drawing the focus. And a last morsel of parting advice from Souvorin: “Any time that I’m grilling fish, I make sure that the rest of the plate is ready first, so grilling the fish is the last part of the meal that I do.”