Food Features



On Boot Camp at the Culinary Institute of America:

Hail to the chefs: CIA boot camp sizzles; author’s take fizzles

1112 words
16 August 2006
Boston Herald
Copyright © 2006 Boston Herald, All rights reserved. Distributed by NewsBank, Inc.


If the Culinary Institute of America collaborated with cookbook author Martha Rose Shulman in the hope that her account of the school’s renowned culinary boot camp might attract more foodies to its learn-to-cook-like-a-chef programs, it’s in for an unpleasant surprise.

That’s because unpleasant is the word for Shulman’s occasionally obnoxious, often insipid and generally tedious book chronicling her experiences during two of these intensive programs.

If reader reviews on Amazon and elsewhere are any guide, Shulman’s book, “Culinary Boot Camp: Five Days of Basic Training at The Culinary Institute of America,” probably drives as many potential students away from the CIA’s Hyde Park, N.Y., campus as it attracts, assuming it attracts any at all.

And that’s a shame. Because as a veteran of three boot camps, I can tell you that while each class of 12 to 15 has a Shulman or two in it – argumentative know-it-alls who call attention to themselves and provoke grumbling among their fellow boots – most graduates nonetheless view their weeklong hitch as a peak experience in their culinary lives.

Why? Well, part of it is the opportunity to learn in intensive detail about cooking and food, acquire new culinary skills and then put it all to use for five straight days in a professional kitchen under deadline pressure. For the food-obsessed demographic, the chance to don whites and play professional chef for five days is irresistible – even at $2,000 per program.

Shulman gets this part well enough. Her book is largely a dry transcription of boot-camp lecture notes – covering the hows and whys of preparations such as soups and stocks, and techniques ranging from shallow poaching to deep frying. These are accompanied by brief accounts of each day’s kitchen production, each night’s dinner in one of the CIA’s four student-run restaurants, various tip boxes and a collection of the week’s recipes.

But since boots are divided into small groups on their first day of camp and then required to organize, strategize and work together for the rest of the week, boot camp is also an exercise in human dynamics and team building.

The reaction of various campers to the unrelenting heat and pressure of boot camp’s faux-pro kitchen was among the most morbidly fascinating aspects of my own boot camps. There was Julie, the wealthy but clueless ingenue who let her teammates shoulder most of the load in an effort to preserve her flawless French manicure. There was Adam, a slacker whose parents had sent him to camp as a vocational opportunity, and who almost quit mid-week, excelling and becoming a kind of class mascot. And there was Tom, a genial but slightly crazed ER physician whose pop-eyed intensity in the kitchen was matched only by the three-fisted ferocity of his drinking during evening meals.

On this score, Shulman whiffs. She mentions her teammates in passing, but tells us almost nothing about them, or about the rest of her classmates. (For a truly compelling look at a CIA education, Michael Ruhlman’s “The Making of a Chef” is everything Shulman’s book is not.)

Shulman’s misstep here seals the book’s fate as a bomb. Lacking material other than her lecture, production and meal notes from which to write a book, she decides to focus on herself, her reactions and her opinions – with disastrous consequences.

Does anyone really care about Shulman’s childhood love for summer camp? Or that she makes a good roast chicken? That, after boot camp, she’ll never make French fries again? (How can you trust a foodie who forswears French fries, anyway?)

These and a hundred other pointless opinions merely heighten the irritation when Shulman studs her tip boxes with such pearls as “Don’t overcook the salmon,” “Make sure you cook the sweet potatoes long enough so they cook through” and “Don’t overcook the beans.” Readers might be forgiven if they conclude that most boot campers arrive at the CIA via the short bus.

That would be an insult, of course. But more insulting still is the impression Shulman leaves that boot camp is a dull and solitary exercise, punctuated only by the grating voice of some stage-hogging classmate who talks only of herself and how much better she does things at home.

As I and hundreds of other boot-camp veterans can attest, nothing could be further from the truth. Fortunately.

Three top boot camp tips

** To medium-dice an onion:

Cut off the flowering end, leaving the hairy root end intact. Bisect the onion vertically through root end and peel. Place onion half flat side down, and make 1/3-inch slices parallel to cutting board, being careful not to cut through the stem. Make cuts down through the onion about 1/3-inches apart without cutting through stem. Now slice onion as if to make rings, with cuts about 1/3-inch apart, creating 1/3-inch dice.

** To professionally mark a steak or chop:

Oil grill rods and heat to high. Pat meat or fish dry and season well. Place item on grill and do not disturb for one minute or until grill marks form. Turn item 45 degrees and grill until crosshatches form. Flip item with tongs or spatula and cook to desired doneness.

** To touch-test meat for doneness:

Touch left thumb and index finger together and then press on the fleshy area between them with your right index finger. This is how a rare steak feels. For medium-rare, touch your thumb to your middle finger. Medium – ring finger. Well done – pinkie.


4 4-oz. swordfish steaks

1 1/2 t. chopped shallots

3/4 t. chopped garlic

2 1/2 oz. dry white wine

12 oz. plum tomatoes skinned, seeded and chopped

1/3 oz. anchovy fillets, minced

1 1/2 t. olive oil

3/4 T. basil leaves, rolled and sliced into thin strips

Lightly saute shallots and garlic in wine until shallots are translucent. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes and anchovies. Oil grill rods and preheat grill to high.

Brush each steak lightly with oil, mark on grill and cook until just translucent in center, about 6 minutes.

While swordfish cooks, heat tomato mixture, remove from heat and add basil. Place portion of sauce under each swordfish steak and serve immediately. Serves 4.

(Adapted from the “CIA’s Techniques of Healthy Cooking Boot Camp.”)



On New England Chef Jasper White:

FOOD: A shore thing — Jasper White’s ‘Summer Shack Cookbook’ nets simple pleasures

868 words
20 June 2007
Boston Herald
Copyright © 2007 Boston Herald, All rights reserved. Distributed by NewsBank, Inc.


Open up the cheery, red-and-yellow cover of “The Summer Shack Cookbook” (W.W. Norton, $35), master-chef Jasper White’s latest opus, and within a few pages, you can almost smell the ocean, feel the sun warm your skin and hear the happy clatter of the boardwalk.

You’re on vacation.

White, 53, says this is exactly what he was after.

“I tried to put myself in the place of someone on vacation, someone who wants to relax and have fun but who also wants to eat great food in the evening without sweating in the kitchen all day to do it.”

And what better answer to that challenge than a cookbook that describes the bounty of farm stand and fish pier, presents simple techniques and recipes for evoking its peak flavors, and gives vacationing cooks permission to let those great ingredients shine.

“I wanted to give people the confidence to stand back and let the ingredients do all the work and let the cooks take all the credit without killing themselves.”

The recipes are based on the fare served at White’s phenomenally successful, every-day’s-a-day-at-the-beach Summer Shack restaurants – from fried clams to clambakes, steamed lobster and grilled bluefish. But the cookbook’s concept runs much deeper than that.

“This isn’t just a cookbook or restaurant,” White says. “This is me. This is close to my heart. It’s who I am and what I’m about. I was a working-class kid who grew up on a farm on the Jersey shore. My father was a construction worker and farmer who hunted and fished, and we ate like kings.

“What I’m trying to get across with this book is that shore food is not about elegance – it’s about flavor.”

Similarly, “The Summer Shack Cookbook” isn’t just about recipes and techniques – it’s a lifestyle. One in which prep work and baking are done in the cool peace of the morning kitchen, fish are selected not on the basis of recipes but that day’s quality, and side-dish choices are based on what’s in season, not what’s in the book.

“At the shore, cooking should be all about these incredible ingredients,” White says. “The cook’s job is easy: Don’t screw them up!”

Though the formerly bearish White has lost 80 pounds over the last few years through a strict regimen of diet and exercise, he still peppers the book with such guilty-pleasure shore favorites as corn dogs, clam cakes and fish and chips – gleefully and without apology.

“These are special treats that should be celebrated rather than feared,” says White. “I’ve cut back, but I’ll never give them up. You don’t have to, either. You don’t have to buy the book and get fat.”

White says he has no illusions. When the days grow shorter and the nights cooler, people probably won’t be reaching for his cookbook. They’ll be thinking about braises, soups and stews. That’s fine with him.

Not during the summer, though.

“The way I look at it, if you want to stay inside on a beautiful summer day cooking dinner, you really need to get a life,” he says.

Then, chuckling, he adds, “You also need to buy my cookbook.”



1 small head garlic (1 1/2 oz.)

2 T. vegetable oil

1 T. Dijon mustard

2 t. lemon juice

1/4 c. olive oil

Pinch kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper


4 8-oz. bluefish fillets, unskinned

vegetable oil

salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the glaze: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place garlic in the center of a doubled sheet of aluminum foil large enough to enclose garlic. Rub garlic head with a little oil to lightly coat it. Wrap it loosely in the foil and bake in pre-heated oven for 1 hour.

Cool garlic. Separate cloves and squeeze pulp into mixing bowl. Mash garlic, whisk in mustard and lemon juice. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking all the time, until the oil is incorporated into a smooth paste. Season with salt.

Keeps refrigerated for five days.

Prepare fish: Heat grill. Rub fillets with oil, salt and pepper. On a very clean, well-oiled grill grate, cook over high heat, flesh-side down, for about two minutes without moving them. Gently flip and grill skin-side down for two minutes, then move fillets to cooler part of grill. Brush on glaze, and cook until fish is flaky but still moist (about six minutes). Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Adapted from “The Summer Shack Cookbook” by Jasper White.


On New Orleans chef John Besh:


King Creole: Chef Besh serves up New Orleans’ culture, cuisine in new cookbook
1249 words
2 December 2009
Boston Herald
Copyright © 2009 Boston Herald, All rights reserved. Distributed by NewsBank, Inc.


When red-hot New Orleans chef John Besh started work on his 384-page magnum opus, “My New Orleans” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $45), he wasn’t interested in just peddling another Crescent City cookbook.

Raised in nearby Slidell, trained in his family kitchens and some of the town’s finest dives, and jolted by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Besh, 41, had nothing less in mind than the celebration – and preservation – of the city’s unique culture.

“After Katrina, I really did start looking at the sustainability of this culture, period,” the affable Besh said via cell phone from one of his restaurants a few weeks ago. “And an air of stewardship really was formed within me, that I was proud to be from the city, and proud to carry the banner for New Orleans and its people. We were rocked by Katrina and a lot of good stuff was taken away. That kind of perspective isn’t a bad thing.”

Indeed not, if it results in a cookbook as spirited as “My New Orleans.” Recipes are interwoven with evocative current-day and vintage photographs of the city and stories and memories from Besh’s upbringing.

And it’s all organized around the various feasts and seasons – Mardi Gras, St. Joseph’s Day, Thanksgiving and Reveillon to name a few – that animate the New Orleans calendar and give the city’s denizens an excuse, as if they needed one, to eat, drink and party.

“I’m proud of the fact that we like to celebrate, that we love our friends and family, and that there’s a social and communal aspect to our family tables,” Besh said. “That’s the reason why we live here. New Orleans food is not about a cook or a trend; it’s about tradition.

“My thought is that if you understand the stories behind some of the food, then you’ll be able to cook the food with much more authenticity, understanding the soul of the cuisine, the soul of the cook and the soul of this incredible Franco-Afro-Creole culture we’ve all inherited.”

With a patient voice and straightforward instructions about everything from basic roux and gumbo to tempura-fried squash blossoms with crabmeat stuffing and blood orange creme brulee, Besh has created a cookbook accessible for newcomers to this magnificent American regional cuisine while providing a source of fresh ideas to experienced Creole cooks.

But Besh has a larger goal – just as he helped save New Orleans in the wake of Katrina by feeding rescue workers, he now hopes “My New Orleans” will help preserve the city’s food, folkways and culture.

“After Katrina, everybody wanted to do reach out and do something,” Besh said. “I have very few talents in life, but one of them is that I can cook and make people happy. I really wanted to make a difference. With this book, I really wanted to make a point to show people what a beautiful culture it is, and to help insure its survival.”

(A portion of the proceeds from the sale of “My New Orleans” goes to the nonprofit Cafe Reconcile, a New Orleans-based program to train at-risk youth for the restaurant business.)


1 c. rendered chicken fat or canola oil

1 c. flour

2 large onions, diced

1 large chicken, cut into 12 pieces

2 T. Creole spice mix

2 lbs. andouille or other spicy smoked sausage, sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 stalks celery, diced

2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced

1 tomato, seeded and chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme

3 quarts chicken stock

2 bay leaves

6 oz. andouille sausage, chopped

2 c. sliced okra

1 T. Worcestershire


Freshly ground black pepper

File powder


4-6 c. cooked white rice

Make a roux by heating the chicken fat or oil in a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk the flour into hot oil. It will immediately begin to sizzle. Reduce heat to moderate and continue whisking until the roux takes on a deep brown color, about 15 minutes. Add onions, stirring them into the roux with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the roux is a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.

Season the chicken with Creole spices. Add chicken to the pot, raise heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the smoked sausage and stir for a minute before adding celery, bell peppers, tomatoes and garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the thyme, chicken stock and bay leaves. Bring gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and skim off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.

Add the andouille, okra and Worcestershire and season with salt and pepper, several dashes of file powder and Tabasco. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat off the surface of the gumbo. Remove bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice or potato salad. Pass more file at the table.

Serves 10-12.

(Adapted From “My New Orleans”)


For the grits

1 t. salt

1 c. old-fashioned (not quick-cooking or instant) grits

2 T. butter

1/2 c. mascarpone cheese

For the shrimp

2 T. olive oil

36 jumbo shrimp, preferably wild, unpeeled

Creole spice mix


1/3 c. minced andouille sausage

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

2 piquillo peppers (roasted red Spanish peppers in a jar)

1 T. chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 c. shrimp or fish stock

2 T. butter

1 t. fresh lemon juice

2 c. canned diced tomatoes

1 T. chopped fresh chives

1/2 c. fresh chervil sprigs

For the grits: bring 4 cups water with salt to a boil in a medium-size saucepan over high heat. Slowly pour grits into boiling water, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Stir grits often to make sure they don’t stick to bottom of the pot. Simmer grits until all the water has been absorbed and they become soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in butter and mascarpone. Remove from heat and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the grits in the pot to keep a crust from forming.

For the shrimp: heat olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Season shrimp with Creole spices and salt. Saute shrimp until they begin to brown but are not cooked all the way through. Remove shrimp as they cook and set aside.

In the same skillet, saute the andouille, garlic, shallots, piquillo peppers and thyme until they become aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp or fish stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in butter and reduce the sauce until it’s nice and thick, 3-5 minutes.

Return shrimp to the skillet and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, diced tomatoes and chives.

Spoon a heaping cup of grits into the center of each of 6 large bowls. Arrange 6 shrimp in the middle of each bowl of grits. Spoon sauce around the shrimp and garnish each bowl with fresh chervil.

Serves 6.

(Adapted from “My New Orleans”)



On cocktails:

Raising the bar: Artisanal ingredients add to allure of classic cocktails

1178 words
28 May 2008
Boston Herald
Copyright © 2008 Boston Herald, All rights reserved. Distributed by NewsBank, Inc.


Jackson Cannon fell into the intoxicating embrace of the classic American cocktail the day he read the scene in “The Sun Also Rises” in which Jake Barnes ducks into a Paris bar and orders a Jack Rose as he awaits the arrival of would-be lover Lady Brett Ashley.

“There was something impossibly sophisticated about it that stayed with me,” says Cannon.

Stay with him it did. Years later, Cannon is the bar manager of Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square, a tippler’s temple dedicated to the production and preservation of great American cocktails, among which the Jack Rose – applejack, grenadine and lemon juice – takes pride of place.

As a longtime barman, Cannon’s seen cocktail trends come and go – from the late-’80s back-bar acrobatics of Tom Cruise’s “Cocktail” to the Cosmo-fueled ‘tini craze inspired by “Sex and the City.”

And as he watched American consumers work their way from jug wine to chardonnay to viognier – and from French food to California cuisine to today’s New American cooking styles – Cannon figured it would only be a matter of time before a similarly refined approach to cocktails replaced the chintzy margarita box and the notion of the bar as restaurant waiting area.

But nothing prepared him for what he calls the current “golden age of the cocktail,” in which house-made or artisanal ingredients are employed by careful, cheflike bartenders in the preparation of classic, mostly pre-Prohibition cocktails, in the service of what he calls “deep, beautiful expressive drinking.”

Call it the foodie-fication of cocktails.

** ** **

John Gertsen carefully carries a polished tray bearing a glisteningly cold Alaskan cocktail (gin, yellow chartreuse, orange bitters, lemon twist) down the length of No. 9 Park’s bar and begins to lower it to a customer’s table when a tiny fleck of mint floating in the otherwise clear potion catches his eye. He stops in mid-motion, smoothly hoists the drink back onto the tray and apologizes to the customer before setting off for a replacement.

Gertsen says it’s this kind of attention to detail that characterizes the current cocktail revival.

“I hope it shows both the seriousness and hospitality that we’re interested in: You order a drink, it’s served with speed and efficiency at the proper temperature and dilution – that’s service.”

It also shows, Gertsen hopes, a commitment to the classic bartender’s art that matches the dedication of No. 9’s kitchen to the classic cook’s art.

When it comes to the profusion of house-made drink ingredients at No. 9 – bitters, cocktail syrups and various infusions – Gertsen says “partly that shows that we’re thinking about our guests before they even get here – working on the ingredients to produce drinks that we’ll make when they do.”

** ** **

When you order a Horse’s Neck – bourbon, ginger ale, orange bitters and lime garnish – at Deep Ellum, it may take a few minutes for it to appear on the bar before you.

That’s because the Allston watering hole’s bartenders eschew the prefab garnish tray in favor of making each element of the cocktail to order – including the length of lime peel draped over the lip of the Old-Fashioned glass that gives the Horse’s Neck its name.

“Cocktails aren’t new,” says Deep Ellum co-owner Max Toste. “But what’s happened recently is this sort of artisanship regarding cocktails and the return of classic barmanship. When I train bartenders I tell them we’re not inventing this, we’re bringing back respect to the bar by the way of classic barmanship. This and jazz are about the only things Americans ever invented”

To Toste, classic barmanship means making all the bar’s bitters as well as several of the bar’s more obscure mixers such as picon liqueur and Swedish punch. It means squeezing the juices required for all cocktails to order. And it means fabricating those time-consuming garnishes one by one.

But the bar’s cocktail business, just slightly below the total sales of the many artisanal beers Deep Ellum offers, tells Toste there’s an audience thirsty for his staff’s labors.

Rob Chirico, author of “The Field Guide to Cocktails,” says the allure of such drinks derives from their elegance – he cites the classic description of the martini as “Fred Astaire in a glass” – their association with the ’20s and the great hotels, bars and bartenders. “It’s not the alcohol,” Chirico says. “It’s the aura.”

Typically, Toste is more plainspoken on the attraction of cocktails. “They taste good. And we all like to drink. Order a shot of Jack and a can of PBR and you’re a drunk. Order a Manhattan and you’re an epicurean. Now, don’t you feel better?

“What we’re trying to do,” says Toste, “is to bring the days back when the local bar was not a Keno (bleep)hole. It was a place you went not because it was the closest, but because it had the best stuff. And, right now, the best stuff is cocktails.”


SIDEBAR: Four essential cocktails


2 oz. rye whiskey

1 oz. dry vermouth

1 oz. pineapple juice

4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Shake with ice, strain into ice-filled old-fashioned glass, garnish with a maraschino cherry.


2 oz. gin

1/2 oz maraschino liqueur

1/4 oz. lemon juice

Shake with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with maraschino cherry.


2 oz. applejack

1 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1/2 oz. grenadine

Shake with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass.


1 1/2 oz. gin

1/2 oz. Cointreau

3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Twist of lime peel (optional)

Shake with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with twist of lime peel.

SIDEBAR: Three great cocktail books

** “The Craft of the Cocktail,” by Dale DeGroff (Clarkson Potter, 2002): A strong potion of cocktail lore, instruction and inspiration from one of the leaders of the cocktail revival.

** “Field Guide to Cocktails,” by Rob Chirico (Quirk Books, 2005): Down-to-earth survey of drinks, their origins, food matches and moods.

** The Savoy Cocktail Book,” Harry Craddock (Pavilion, 2007): A vintage guide (originally published in 1930) to vintage drinks from the bartender at the American Bar in London’s Savoy Hotel, where the flame of the cocktail was kept alive during the dark days of Prohibition.

On cooking whole fish:

The whole truth: For peak flavor, grill fish in one piece
1114 words
12 July 2006
Boston Herald

Copyright © 2006 Boston Herald, All rights reserved. Distributed by NewsBank, Inc.
Few summer dishes are more delicious to eat or spectacular to serve than grilled whole fish – and yet few are as resolutely avoided by home cooks, who fear that the technique is beyond them and resort to the same old steaks and chops.

Chefs have one word for such timidity: Nonsense.

“It’s really simple, you can’t match the flavor and the presentation is spectacular,” says David Kamen, a chef and professor of culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America, which published its comprehensive cookbook “Grilling: Exciting International Flavors from the World’s Premier Culinary College” (Lebhar-Friedman) earlier this summer.

But squeamishness is also at work.

“There’s that what-am-I-gonna-do-with-the-head, I-don’t-want-it-looking-at-me mentality,” says Aaron DeRego, chef-owner of Westport seafood paradise The Back Eddy. “They can’t understand or appreciate the benefits.”

What benefits? Simple: taste. Because the meat cooks along with the flavor-intensive bone, fat and skin over a smoky fire, grilled fish packs a palate wallop that fillets and steaks cannot match.

“It yields a more intense flavor, a richer texture and a moister piece of fish than any other method,” says DeRego.

The method isn’t especially tricky, but preparation is key, and that begins with finding the right fish. DeRego recommends selecting “what’s swimming around right now,” but chefs agree that striper, black bass, snapper, trout, arctic char, pompano and porgies are all good choices. A three-pound fish will yield three to four portions.

But whatever it is, “the fish must be impeccably fresh,” says Kamen. “That’s make-or-break right there.” Select firm-fleshed fish with bright, bulging eyes, deep red gills and little odor, and ask your fishmonger to pan-dress your prize – removing scales, gills and fins.

When it’s time to cook, get the grill good and hot – gas is more convenient, charcoal or wood more flavorful – clean and grease the rods well with an oil-soaked paper towel held in a set of tongs, pat the fish dry, cut three or four diagonal slashes to the bone in each side, then season and oil it to reduce sticking.

DeRego recommends cooking whole fish in part over an indirect flame, which takes longer but is a bit more forgiving than Kamen’s direct-grilling method. But whatever method you choose, turn the fish only once – no pushing, prodding or flipping – and do so by slipping a long spatula under the length of the fish and gently rolling it over.

Kamen recommends 7-10 minutes per side, but urges cooks to check for doneness near the spine with a knife, looking for flesh that is just turning translucent and slightly flaky. More exact is a thermometer reading of 140-145 degrees near the bone. Remove the fish from the grill in the same way you flipped it, and remember that the fish will continue to cook once it’s off the flame.

To serve, run a sharp knife along the spine and belly of the fish, and then cut a line behind the gills and in front of the tail. Use a spatula to carefully remove the fillet, working from top to bottom. Pull the tail up to remove the skeleton, and then lift out the other fillet. To do this cleanly takes some practice, so be patient.

DeRego has one more piece of advice for aspiring whole-fish cooks: “Try to remember that the point is to enjoy the process and the fish. So lower your expectations as far as what you’re going to serve with it, try to get the side dishes done in advance, and enjoy.”


Two 2-pound whole black sea bass Vegetable oil

Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Chili glaze:

2 c. white vinegar

1/2 c. apricot jam

1 T. crushed red pepper

Combine chili glaze ingredients in small saucepan, reduce by half and set aside in warm place.

Clean, preheat and oil grill.

Cut three or four diagonal slashes to the bone on both sides of the fish. Rub with oil and salt and pepper.

Place the fish over medium-high section of the grill with the belly of the fish facing the hottest part of the fire. Sear 4 to 5 minutes

Use tongs or slip a spatula under the belly and flip the fish away from the fire so that the top is now closest to the fire.

Cover the fish with a disposable aluminum roasting pan while it finishes cooking. Fish will be best when finished near rather than over the fire, medium heat at most.

Continue cooking 10 to 12 minutes or until fish is opaque thoughout.

Brush with chili glaze and serve with fresh greens, new potatoes, local corn and tomatoes. Serves 4. (Adapted from Aaron DeRego.)


One 3-to-4-pound whole red snapper


1 1/4 oz. olive oil

1 1/4 oz. lemon juice

1 1/4 t. chopped fresh oregano

Salt and ground black pepper to taste.


1 1/2 t. chopped shallots

3/4 t. minced garlic

1/4 c. white wine

1 3/4 c. plum tomatoes, seeded and diced

3 anchovies, minced

1 1/2 t. olive oil

3/4 t. fresh basil, shredded

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Cut three or four slashes to the bone on each side of the fish.

Combine marinade ingredients in baking dish and coat fish thoroughly. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-4 hours. Remove fish from marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Grill over high heat for 7 to 10 minutes per side or until flesh flakes easily with fork (140-145 degrees internal temperature).

Remove from grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes in warm spot.

For sauce, saute garlic and shallots in olive oil over low flame until aromatic but not browned.

Add wine and reduce until almost dry.

Add tomatoes and anchovies and simmer gently, 2-3 minutes.

Season with basil, add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

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