SKILLS

EL REY, CHALLENGE AUTHOR

The art of cooking with fire - raw, primitive flickering heat - is a test of balance and patience, and no subject represents a greater trial than fish. Not handled properly, the delicateness of skin and meat can fall apart and erupt in a dry, crumbling disaster.

Accept this Challenge from El Rey, an expert fishmonger from El Mercado De San Juan, and learn to grill a fish in the style of Oaxacan fisherman.

TIME TO COMPLETE:
4 HOURS

CHALLENGE LEVEL 2

WINNING PRIZE:
PORTABLE GRILL

YOU'LL NEED

A FRESH FISH

Find it at your local groceries market

A SHARP KNIFE

Promise once you start, you’ll be careful not to cut yourself.

SALT, PEPPER, VEGGIES

And whatever you wanna toss to the grill

1.

HOW TO PICK OUT A FISH

Selecting a fish from dozens in a market can be intimidating. Here are (3) ways to go home with a fresh one.

THE EYES

Look that fish in the eye. Is it clear, vibrant? Yes, great. A bit foggy? Keep looking. 

THE BOUNCE

Give the skin a push. Does it bounce back? Good. No bounce? You bounce. 

THE GILLS

Inspect the gills. Are they red? You have a winner. Gray? Move on. 

2.

THE BUTTERFLY FILLET

The butterfly technique is arguably the most successful for grilling because the meat of the fish rests and is distributed evenly on the flames. 

SHARPEN YOUR KNIFE

Without a sharp blade, this process will be a mess. If you don’t have access to a sharp knife, consult this handy guide here.

REMOVE THE GILLS

Use the knife or scissors to snip or carve out the gills of the fish. Use gloves to control the filet and protect your fingers from scales.

CUT ALL THE WAY

Make the first incision from head to belly, running your knife against the spine. Then cut open the bottom lip and slice the head of the fish in half.

3.

THE PREP

While seasonings and sauces can yield mind bending flavor, El Rey is a purist. He advocates for only elements that enhance a fish’s natural flavor.

THE TRADITIONAL GLASS

THE TIN FOIL

SALT & OLIVE OIL

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As with all cooking, controlling heat and managing time are keys to success. elements of success. The fish needs to cook, and not for too long.

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4.

THE GRILL

As with all cooking, controlling heat and managing time are keys to success. elements of success. The fish needs to cook, and not for too long.

GRAY COALS

If using charcoal, wait for the coals to gray over, a signal they’ve reached a high and consistent temp. If using gas, turn your heat up to 400 degrees.

TIN TOPPER

With careful hands, place the filet on the grill evenly. If you have a lid, close it. If you don’t, cover with tin foil to trap any moisture. 

THE RELEASE

Keep a steady eye on your fish - looking for a translucent glow to the meat. Once tender, remove quickly. The fish will continue to cook at the table.