This Chukchi Sea Dolly Varden Char was liberally salted, broiled and served with roasted Peruvian potatoes and garlic cloves. Salt grilling or broiling brings out the natural sweetness of species ranging from porgy and snapper to trout, char and salmon.
When a friend recently presented us with two harvested-from-the-ocean-this-morning char, we knew immediately what we wanted to do with one of them: shioyaki. Although Japanese cuisine is better known for sushi and sashimi, far more fresh fish on Japanese tables is served well salted and then broiled or grilled.
The Japanese eat a lot of fish, and it is for good reason that shioyaki fish is weekly fare in most households. It’s quick, it’s easy, and fish prepared this way are deliciously savory and sweet. This is also an excellent method for preparing freshly caught trout while camping. Simply clean the catch, skewer it lengthwise, cut a few shallow slashes into the skin, rub salt on the fish and roast it on an open fire or over a grill. Brook trout served this way make for memorable camp fare, as do Japanese iwana (char).
This pair of sea run Dolly Varden char have all the characteristics of fresh fish: bright, clear eyes, firm, nicely colored flesh, and no evidence of bruising.
Because the fish are seasoned only with salt (and perhaps the smoke from a grill or fire), it is imperative that it be absolutely fresh. When you’re purchasing fish, look for a healthy shine, bright colors and clear, bright eyes. The scales should be intact and the gills, if any remain, should be bright red. Don’t be shy about giving a fish you’re considering purchasing a whiff. It should smell clean. Fish does not smell fishy; it is bacteria growing on poorly cared for or old fish that carries the unpleasant smell often called “fishy.”
Salt-Broiled Whole Fish
- Start with a clean, fresh fish. If it is a salmon, trout or char, it need not be scaled, but all traces of gill and viscera should be removed. Rinse the fish in cold water and pat dry inside and out. (Fish, such as porgy, snapper and rockfish should be scaled.)
- Preheat broiler to high and position a broiling pan a few inches from the heating element. (You may have to experiment to find the right position in your oven.)
- Use a very sharp knife to cut shallow diagonal slashes about an inch apart down the length of the fish.
- Rub a generous amount of salt into the fish. Let rest for a few minutes up to half an hour. Coarse grey sea salt from France (Celtic sea salt) is perfect for this recipe.
- When the broiler is hot, coat the broiling pan with oil by either brushing on or spraying with a pump spray. Canola oil or light olive oil work well.
- Place the fish on the pan. It should sizzle. If it doesn’t, it will stick to the pan.
- Cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Do not move fish during cooking. (On a grill, you will want to turn the fish once to ensure even cooking.) The fish is done when the tail and fins are crisp, the eyes are opaque and clear juice is no longer bubbling up through the slashes. With a fat fish, you will see some white fat in the slashes. This is good.
This dish requires no further adornment and is delicious with a glass of cold sparkling water, a craft ale, or a fine daiginjyo sake.