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Saturday, December 3, 2016

How to Properly Marinate Fish and Seafood

My mother-in-law Méranie is from Martinique, a French island where fish and seafood are a large part of the local diet. This is her technique for marinating whole fish but it can be applied to any kind of seafood. Here I use wild-caught mackerel from my local fish market. The secret is to marinate it long enough for it to be flavorful, but not long enough for the citrus juice to "cook" the fish.

  • Whole fish, cleaned
  • Garlic cloves, grated (1 clove per 1 or 2 fish)
  • Organic lemons or limes, zest and juice
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground peppercorn
  • Shallot, thinly sliced (or red onion)
  • Fresh herbs (optional) like oregano, rosemary, chives, dill, parsley, thyme
  • Chili pepper

  1. Scatter some thinly sliced shallot on the bottom of a shallow baking dish. Add citrus zest to a small bowl along with the juice. Grate in the garlic. Add salt and pepper, then stir everything together. Rub the mixture all over the fish, inside and out. Scatter more shallot on top. 
  2. If you're marinating a whole fish and fresh herbs are available, tuck some inside the cavity, along with a few lemon wedges. I used oregano and rosemary, plus some chives on top.
  3. Cut a fresh chili pepper in half lengthwise and place it, cut-side down, in the lemon juice that has collected at the bottom of the pan. Méranie uses a habanero pepper but I used a green finger chili.
  4. Set the fish aside at room temperature for 30 minutes, periodically spooning the marinade over the fish.
  5. When you're ready to roast the fish, preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake it until just cooked through. Cooking time will depend on the size of the fish and you will know it's done when the thickest part flakes apart easily. Smaller fish that serve one person usually take 20 to 30 minutes. Do not over-cook the fish. As soon as it's ready, serve the fish immediately. Save the carcass for fish stock.

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