Once I caught a fish alive – grilled whole sea bass with thyme

17 August 2011 § 4 Comments

…I did go mackerel fishing a very long time ago in the wild waters of West Wales, but this is no fishing tale. It is a story about this sea bass I bought from Shore Catch at the Montclair Farmers’ Market. A perfect Sunday night dinner. We had ours with boiled blue potatoes, fresh corn and tomato salad. And yes The Ladies™ loved it too, they were fascinated with the fish eyes and I think they would have eaten them if I had not been so squeamish and put my foot down.

Some people are afraid of cooking fish – some they worry about the smell – but with really fresh fish there is not much of a smell. Other people just get intimated at the thought of cooking fish – do not fear fish, we are bigger and smarter than them.

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine sent me this panicked text:

“Help, just bought whole red snapper. How would u cook? Need to use 2nite”

It was one of the rare times when I was out for the night at a local bar. So with my Campari in hand I was able to text her instructions, and through the wonders of smartphone technology and the photos she sent me I was able to tell her when it was done. I felt a bit like an air traffic controller guiding in a plane – or maybe that was the alcohol talking? I was then able to get back to my drinks and conversation.

Here is a version of that quick fish dish, cooked on a grill though instead of in an oven, so no fish smells just in case you are concerned. And it is so easy you could cook it from text messages.


  • 1 fresh whole sea bass, have it cleaned (buy one with shiny eyes and scales)
  • A few slices of lemon, plus more for serving
  • A handful of fresh herbs – I like thyme and oregano
  • Pepper
  • Coarse sea salt
  • A few spoonfuls of olive oil

Wash the fish and dry with paper towels. Put the lemon and herbs inside the fish, where it has been gutted. Then rub some olive oil on both sides and sprinkle the skin generously with sea salt and pepper.

Make sure the grill is hot, then lower to a medium temperature, put a little olive oil on the grill, then place the fish on. Cook for about 5-7 minutes when that side looks like it is done, turn over. Do not overcook. Turn only once so fish does not fall apart.

Serve with a glass of cold white wine – the wine is for grown-ups only.

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