What would a James Beard Award-winning chef cook for dinner on a summer night off? “The first thing that comes to mind is a quick grilled fish, served with a simple summer salad,” says Chris Hastings, chef and owner, with wife Idie, of Birmingham’s Hot and Hot Fish Club, “like our grouper with tomato, avocado, and grilled Vidalia onions.”
“I love using vinaigrettes instead of heavier sauces in the summer, and lighter fats like olive oil and avocado for richness,” Hastings says. “And the acidity of the vinaigrette goes great with the smoky, sweet flavor of the grilled fish and onions.”
Cooking fish on the grill can be intimidating, so Hastings offers a few tips:
1) Use a natural charcoal, piled into a chimney starter and lit with newspaper or paraffin lighters, not lighter fluid.
2) Scrub the grill grate really clean with a brush, then, with a dry towel, rub the dust and residue off the grate.
3) Lubricate the grate with a paper towel that has been dipped in oil, holding it with tongs if the grill is hot.
4) When the coals are really hot, put the oiled and seasoned fish on the grill, flesh side (not skin side) down, and leave it alone until it releases from the grate on its own before flipping.
5) Also, be sure to bring the fish to room temperature before grilling. “If you don’t bring the fish to room temperature before grilling it,” he says, “the outside will be dry before the inside is cooked through.”