Grilling a whole fish is the final frontier of mastering the modern grill. If using fresh woody herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, save the sprigs after you pluck off the leaves and toss them onto the fire to add a subtle flavor to the smoke that surrounds and imbues the food.
Grilled Whole Fish
4 rainbow steelhead or rainbow trout, each about 2 lb., cleaned
2 Tbs. roughly chopped fresh rosemary, plus 12 sprigs
2 Tbs. roughly chopped fresh thyme, plus 12 sprigs
3 garlic cloves, crushed into a paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lemons, sliced into rounds
Using a very sharp knife, score the skin on both sides of the fish on the diagonal at 1-inch intervals. Place in a shallow dish.
In a small bowl, stir together the chopped rosemary, chopped thyme and garlic paste. Rub the herb-garlic paste all over the outside and inside of the fish. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the vermouth and olive oil over the fish, turn to coat and let stand for 30 minutes.
Prepare a grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Brush and oil the grill grate and a fish-grilling basket, if desired.
Remove the fish from the marinade; discard the marinade. Stuff the fish cavities with a few of the lemon slices and the rosemary and thyme sprigs.
Arrange the fish on the grill or in the basket directly over medium-high heat. Grill, turning once, until nicely charred and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. During the last few minutes of grilling, grill the remaining lemon slices over the hottest part of the fire, turning once, until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Transfer the fish to individual plates or a serving platter, garnish with the grilled lemon slices and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
Find more delicious recipes for outdoor cooking in our book On the Grill, by Willie Cooper.