When grilling whole fish, the key to crisp skin that releases easily is a clean and well-oiled grate and plenty of heat—you shouldn’t be able to hold your hand over the grate for longer than 5 seconds. You can forgo the skewers if you choose, or tie the fish with soaked twine, but securing the sides will help when it’s time to flip the fish.
- 8-Inch Wooden Skewers
- Small Bowl
- Baking Sheet
- Grill or Grill Pan
- Metal Spatula
- Cutting Board
- Mortar and Pestle
- 2 lemons, sliced crosswise into ¼-inch-thick rounds
- ½ cups coarsely chopped fennel fronds
- 2 Tbps. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
- Kosher salt
- Four 1-lb. whole trout, gutted and cleaned, or substitute smallmouth bass or branzino
- Soak four 8-inch wooden skewers in water for at least 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add the lemon slices, fennel fronds, 2 tablespoons of the oil, and a generous pinch of salt; toss well.
- Set the trout on a baking sheet with the cut (belly) sides facing you. Season the inside and outside of each fish lightly all over with salt, rubbing gently to adhere. Fill each cavity with some of the lemon and fennel mixture, distributing it evenly. Weave a skewer through both sides of the skin at one end of the opening, then the other, to keep the mixture tucked inside.
- Prepare a grill or grill pan to high heat. (If using coals, spread them evenly beneath the grate, then let the grate heat for 5 minutes.) Brush the grate or grill pan and the outside of each fish lightly with olive oil, then place the trout on the grill with the open sides facing you. (You should hear a nice sizzle when the first fish hits the grill. If you don’t, remove the fish and let the grate heat a little longer.) Cook until the skin is crispy on one side and the fish easily releases from the grill, 5–7 minutes. Using a metal spatula, carefully turn the fish and repeat on the remaining side. Test for doneness by pressing your thumb between the bone and meat on the back of the trout: If the meat appears flaky and separates from the bones easily, remove from the grill.
- Transfer the fish to a cutting board and carefully remove the skewers. Scoop out the lemon and fennel, and pound it briefly with a mortar and pestle. Fillet the trout, if desired. Spoon the lemon mixture over the fish, and serve.