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Broiled Yellowtail with Grapefruit Salsa

About two weeks ago, I received an email from Edelman Interactive, offering me a free promotional fish – a Kona Kampachi from Kona Blue. Given that I was under no obligation to blog about the fish at all, and I love fish, I accepted.

I was offered my choice of fillets or a whole fish, and took the whole fish, because meat on the bone always ends up more tender and flavorful. Also, fish are cute.

So, I emailed my partner, Dave, to let him know that we would be getting a free fish from the next week’s catch. He thought this was pretty hilarious:

“Note: Edelman is the PR firm for both Microsoft and Walmart. All they need is Exxon for the holy trinity! Actually they do have Shell, which is about the same.

“Oh, wait, they also represented the tobacco companies. Jesus, just about every evil corp on earth is on their list: the Mormons! AT&T! American Petroleum Institute! Diebold! the MPAA! PhRMA! Raytheon!

“Wow. I’m totally in favor of taking their free fish, and blogging about Edelman.”

The fish was supposed to arrive on Thursday, and Dave and I were looking forward to trying it out together on Thursday night. Unfortunately, FedEx was delayed and it did not arrive until Friday morning, when Dave was already out of town for the weekend, and I was already scheduled to leave for Virginia that afternoon.

There was no choice – I had to take the fish down to Virginia with me.

As soon as the fish arrived, I climbed out of my office window to put it out on my industrial balcony to keep it cold until it was time to go. (I deeply regret not taking a photo of it out there. Sorry about that.) And once I put out all the fires I could that day (as an attorney, that’s often my job), I loaded my 20 lb. box of ice and fishie onto a small handcart and took it down into the NYC subway system.

From there, we went to the Chinatown bus. I loaded the fish into the bottom luggage compartment, which I expected would keep it cooler than the heated seating area above.

When my fish and I got to my friend Ariana’s home in Virginia, and we finally opened up the box, this is what we saw. A whole fish. I’d expected it to be a cleaned and gutted fish, but no, it really was complete in its entirety.

He’s a cutie, isn’t he?

He and Ariana soon became best buddies.

She was a bit squeamish about the whole fish, but fascination won out until it was time to actually clean and gut him. I had to do that myself, for the first time in years and years. I went fishing a lot as a child, and learned to gut fish back then, but this was my first time cleaning a fish in my adult life without my father’s supervision.

Further down in this post, you’ll find fully illustrated instructions on how to clean and gut a fish.

In the meantime, though, you can enjoy these cute photos of Ariana with the fish instead.

The fish was gorgeous. After just a few days in transit from Hawaii to New York to Virginia after he was caught, he still smelled clean and fresh, and his tail was just beautiful.

And damned if he wasn’t the friendliest fellow we’d met in ages.

Talkative, too.

Ariana and I brainstormed fish recipes together. She’d done her research while I was on the bus, and had a few ideas to begin with. In the end, we decided to broil the fish very simply, and serve it with an easily thrown together grapefruit salsa.

The grapefruit salsa recipe is further down, and you’ll find it if you keep on reading. For the fish, all we did was fill the body cavity with some butter, some grated fresh ginger, and a bunch of scallions cut into 2″ long pieces (green parts only).

As Helen from Beyond Salmon suggests, we broiled the fish for 5 minutes on each side, then finished by baking it at 425 F for a total of 10 minutes per inch of thickness (including the 10 minutes broiling time). (So, for example, a fish that is 3″ thick would be broiled for 5 minutes on each side, then baked at 425 F for an additional 20 minutes.)

We served it with the grapefruit salsa and some simply roasted sweet potatoes.

It was absolutely delicious.

The ginger flavor had infused very nicely into the flesh while cooking, and it paired marvelously well with the grapefruit salsa.

As advertised, it was extremely mild and non-fishy, which Ariana in particular appreciated. I rather like oily flavorful fish (such as mackerel), but this was nice, too. It was very moist and tender, which in part was because it had been cooked on the bone, and in part because the Kona Kampachi has a fairly high fat content to begin with.

Ariana, her husband, and I had it for lunch on Saturday, and then we served the rest of the fish as party food to her guests that afternoon. There were at least 8 servings on that fish, and we enjoyed it entirely.

Each and every bite.

The fish was kitty-approved by Oz, king of kings.

We licked our fingers, and so did he.

Though to be fair, Oz is an equal opportunity fish lover.

And a mighty hunter, too.

Could you resist such a fluffy kitty, even with tasty fish on the line? I think not.

Around this time last year, we were making: Stewed Garlicky Black Bean Spare Ribs, Malaysian Beef Curry with Thick Onion Sauce (Daging Nasi Kandar)

Grapefruit Salsa
A handful of chopped red onion
2 huge red grapefruits (almost 3 lbs total)
1 green birdseye chile, thinly sliced, with about half the seeds removed
A handful and a half of cooked (or canned and drained) black beans
1/8 tsp ground cumin, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Peel the grapefruit, and discard the peel, pith, and seeds. Coarsely chop the wedges of pulp which remain. Combine it with the other ingredients, and adjust the seasonings to taste.

Let it sit in your fridge for at least half an hour to allow the flavors to meld before serving.

How to Clean a Fish

First, cut off the fins just behind the head. If your fish has big inedible scales, you can remove them by running your knife against them, like petting a cat the wrong way. The Kona Kampachi was basically scale-free, so I skipped that step entirely.

Locate the gills, which are the red things shown in the photo below.

Remove them.

Check out the bottom of the fish. You’ll see the anus, and another set of fins.

Cut off the bottom fins. Cut a triangle around the anus and cut out a strip coming from it all the way up the gills – the point is to remove the anus entirely (because really, who wants to eat fish anus?) and slit the belly open from just behind the anus to the head. Once you’ve done that, it’s easy to just reach in with your hand and remove all the innards from the body cavity.

See the dark stuff around the spine in the photo above? Scrape it out. You may need a knife to get started, but mostly you should be able to do it with a spoon.

Last, rinse out the insides of your fish.

You want to get it pretty clean, because you’re going to stuff more tasty things inside there before cooking.

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10 Responses to “Broiled Yellowtail with Grapefruit Salsa”

  1. Nicole says:

    You know, I haven’t gutted a fish since I was a kid either. Thanks for the refresher! Now I can hunt in Chinatown with impunity :)

  2. this is the first time I’ve ever seen a photo of a fish pee-pee. i mean, i’ve seen ‘em in person, but i don’t know of anyone who has ever taken the time to photograph it.

    mighty handsome fish though.

  3. katy says:

    wow, this is really helpful! i was thinking about taking a cooking class to learn how to prepare a whole fish, but maybe i can try it at home first, thanks to reading this!

  4. Helen says:

    Damn! That’s one good lookin fish! A totally adorable cat too. In the meantime, I’ve tagged you! Check out my latest post (http://helengraves.co.uk/?p=168). Helen.

  5. Barbara says:

    Thanks for the instructions, but more so for the chuckles. And for including Dave’s rant.

  6. Warda says:

    So Dave ended up not eating the fish after all! This is one big fish! Thanks for the instructions!

  7. Danielle says:

    Nicole – Have fun!

    Jaden – Well, that’s exactly it. I figured that most people, when confronted with a fish pee-pee, may worry about what the hell to do with it.

    katy – Definitely take the plunge! It’s a messy job, but pretty easy.

    Helen – Thanks! I’m trying to think of my list now.

    Barbara, Warda – Dave ended up missing out on the fish, sadly, but he was pleased I posted his rant, too.

  8. Annemarie says:

    An adventure for you and the fish, it seems. Great step-by-step of fish gutting, and love the sound of the grapefruit.

  9. brilynn says:

    My Dad got that same toy for our cat, she ripped the fish off and has more fun playing with the plastic stick…

    I used to fish when I was younger too, but I generally only cause useless things like trees and dinghys…

  10. [...] 2008: Broiled Yellowtail with Grapefruit Salsa 2007: Malaysian Beef Curry with Thick Onion Sauce (Daging Nasi Kandar) Miso Almond Romanesco 2 [...]

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