As a native Texan, I feel obligated to share an iconic seafood dish from the Gulf: grilled redfish on the half shell.
Cooking on the half shell means keeping the skin and scales intact with the fillet. Doing so creates a barrier between the heat and the meat, which locks in moisture. The beauty of this method is that you cook the fish directly on the grill with no foil or pan necessary. When finished, you’ll have a perfect flaky fillet that slides right off the skin with minimal effort.
For this meal, I brush a generous amount of spicy harissa paste on top. Harissa is a staple condiment in North Africa. Recipes vary from region to region, but most are comprised of chiles, spices such as cumin, caraway and coriander, lots of garlic, and either lemon juice or vinegar.
I like to swirl a small spoonful of harissa into a bowl of kefir (yogurt) for dipping the redfish. The combination of spicy, garlicky paste and tangy kefir makes a fantastic spread on pita bread, too.
I like my harissa a little more spicy, so I use half chile arbol (hot, similar to cayenne) and half guajillos chile (mild). For a tamer product, use ancho, pasilla or roasted red bell peppers.
Time to make
2 pounds of redfish with skin on
Harissa paste (store bought or recipe below)
1 cup of plain kefir or greek yogurt
1-2 tbsp. oil
4 oz. of mixed dried chiles (2 oz each of guajillo and chile de arbol)
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
½ tsp. ground caraway seeds
½ tsp. ground coriander seeds
½ tsp. ground cumin seeds
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. fine grain salt
3 tbsp. olive oil
Also works with
Any mild, flaky fish with skin on
Food processor or blender
- Toast the chile pods and spices in a dry sauté pan over medium-high heat for 30 seconds on each side. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chiles by cracking them open. Place the dried chiles in a large bowl and cover with boiling hot water. Cover the bowl and let the chilis soak for about 30 minutes to an hour to soften. Drain the water from the chilis and place into a food processor or blender.
- Add the garlic, caraway, coriander, cumin, vinegar, salt and olive oil. Blend until you reach a smooth consistency.
- This can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container for up to a week. You can also freeze what you don’t use.
- Preheat a grill at medium-high heat. If building a small fire, burn your wood down until it is nearly all coals. Use a grate set a foot or so above so it doesn’t scorch the bottom of fish.
- Rub a little oil over both sides of the fish, then brush the flesh side with a tablespoon of harissa paste per fillet. Reserve the rest of the paste for other applications.
- Place the fillets directly on the grates, skin side down. Close the grill lid or cover with foil if using a fire. Cook for about 12-15 minutes or longer, depending on the thickness of your fish and the temperature of your heat source. If the skin blackens while the meat is still raw, then you’re cooking too hot. Turn the heat down or raise the fish higher off the coals. The skin will be dark and crispy, and the meat should flake apart easily with a fork when done.
- Add a dollop of harissa paste to a small bowl of kefir/yogurt and swirl to combine. Serve the grilled redfish with the harissa-yogurt dip.