Quick and easy summer food- Mussels on the grill!

Delicious fruits of the sea taste even better straight from the grill.

Delicious fruits of the sea taste even better straight from the grill.

Don’t have a lot of time, so thinking about skipping the appetizer? Don’t do that, just get yourself a net of fresh mussels and grill’em up. Here’s how:

This is so easy, and it’s perfect for those times when you’ve set up for direct cooking the main course. How about some mussel and tenderloin surf and turf? Or, you could serve the mussels as a starter with some homemade buns and chipotle mayo. Me and my wife made them for dinner, with a side salad with some fresh spinach and chickpeas. Delicious.

Total time: 10 minutes

Skill level: Beginner
Grilling method: Direct
Grill temperature: High!

You’re going to need:

  • Fresh, live mussels
  • Whatever you want on the side

How you do it:

  • Set up your grill for direct cooking, and wait until it’s all nice and evenly hot
  • Throw the mussels on the direct heat! No prep, no seasonings, no smoke chips. They make their own smoky, salty flavor, and to me it’s just perfect.
  • As the mussels open up, take them off the grill and put them in a bowl. The ones that don’t open up a lot, or at all, need to be discarded, or you could get sick
  • Enjoy!

Whole, smokegrilled trout

There’s nothing that spells summer to me like grilling a whole salmon or trout. Grilling it whole also makes it juicier and more forgiving in terms of temperature. One small note on this, I see a lot of people “grilling” whole fish completely wrapped in aluminium foil. Now I don’t mean to be a BBQ snob, but I am, so here goes. When you do that, you’re basically steaming the fish, not grilling it. There’s also no way for smoke and other flavours of the grill to get into the fish. So, you might as well go inside and steam it in your kitchen, much easier. There.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at a good way of getting that delicious smokegrilled flavour on a big piece of whole fish. Trout or salmon can be used here, that’s up to you.

Total time: 2-3 hours
Skill level: Easy/intermediate
Grilling method: Indirect, two-zoned (some coals on each side, none in the middle)
Grill temperature: About 175 degrees centigrade (350F)

You’re going to need:
A medium-large whole trout (or salmon)
2 lemons
Some butter
Fresh dill
A clove of garlic
Salt and pepper
Oak wood chips (alternatively alder or fruit wood)
(Optional) A long fish basket for large fish
If no fish basket, some cardboard and heavy-duty aluminium foil

Serving suggestions:
Mustard-dill sauce
New potatoes (boiled or baked on the grill)
Butter-steamed spring cabbage
Grilled spring onions

How you do it:

  • Get the grill started as instructed above
  • Clean the fish if it hasn’t been done for you. Remove the head, tail, use kitchen shears to cut off any fins. Rinse it off in ice-cold water and dry with paper towels
  • Cut some diagonal slashes on both side of the fish, quite deep. We do this to allow the smoke and flavours to penetrate the meat properly when grilling.
  • Put thinly sliced lemon and some dill sprigs in each slash
  • Season the inside of the fish with salt and pepper, put some more lemon slices and dill sprigs in there too
  • Make a herb butter by melting a cup of butter, then chucking in a minced garlic clove and a handful or two of chopped dill. I also put some pepper in there, but that’s optional
  • If you  have a fish basket, good. If not,cut out two pieces of cardboard slightly larger than your fish. Wrap them in two layers of heavy-duty aluminium foil
  • Brush one of your new cardboard “planks” with butter
  • Brush the fish on both sides with herb butter and put it in your fish basket or on your cardboard plank
  • Put some water-soaked smoke wood chips on the coals. I like to get a good smoke level started before I put on meat or fish, because raw meat seems to take up smoke flavour more readily. This goes for all meats. Always get the smoke going good first, then put the food in.
  • Once the smoke gets going, put the fish in the middle of the grill, on its plank/basket
  • Baste the fish with herb butter every ten minutes
  • When the fish has been on the grill for 30-40 minutes, depending on size and temperature, it’s time to flip it. If you have a fish basket, that’s easy. If you have cardboard planks, butter up the second plank, and use your grilling gloves to flip the fish over on plank #2. It can be a bit tricky, so be careful
  • Grill the fish another 30-40 minutes until ready. If you have a Thermapen or other instant-read thermometer, look for the fish to be 55 degrees centigrade (about 130F). If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, make a small incision on the widest section of the fish near the backbone. The meat should be pale pink and opaque, not translucent and pink/orange.
  • Serve!

Smokegrilled mackerel

Mackerel is one of my favorite fish to eat. It brings back memories of summers spent fishing in my little dingy outside Bergen on the west coast of Norway. A feisty fish that was fun to fish for as a kid growing up. It’s nice and juicy thanks to very high-fat content, and that also makes it very healthy, full of omega-3 and other good stuff. I think mackerel tastes fantastic, and I like to keep it really simple. Salt and pepper for seasoning, new potatoes on the side, with a sour cream sauce and some good butter. One thing that makes mackerel perfect for the grill, is the fact that it can smell quite strong. Fun when you’re making it and eating it, not so fun three days later in your kitchen. So, let’s take the mackerel outside!

In this recipe I combine smoking with high temperature grilling. Mackerel being a fatty fish, it takes up smoke flavour quite readily, so you don’t need a lot of time to get the right amount of smoke flavour into the meat.

Time: 45 minutes total
Skill level: Easy
Grilling method: Direct
Grill temperature: About 200-250 degrees centigrade  (390-480F)
Equipment: Fish basket, cherry wood chips for smoke

You’ll need to get hold of:
Fresh, raw mackerel (1 large per person)
New potatoes
Butter
Sour cream
Lemon
Fresh Dill

How you do it:

  • Have a hot grill waiting, with the 50/50 setup (coals on one side)
  • If you’re baking the new potatoes, prick them with a fork all around so smoke can get in, throw some wood chips on the coals and leave these on the indirect side of the grill. They will need 45-60 minutes depending on size
  • Prep and clean the mackerel unless you had the fish shop do it for you, remove all guts and blood, rinse and dry off with paper towels. I like to leave the tails and heads on, but you can remove these if you’re wimpy about it or if your kids have watched Finding Nemo too many times…
  • Liberally season the fish inside and outside with Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper (I use Tellicherry)
  • Put the mackerel in your fish basket (oil it if it’s not a non-stick one). A fish basket is really necessary here, because mackerel will stick to your grill grate like crazy and it will be extremely difficult to flip the fish without it falling apart
  • Make a very simple sour cream sauce. I mix sour cream with some lemon juice, salt and pepper, and some freshly chopped dill
  • Grill the mackerel over direct heat, until the skin is nicely crispy and the meat falls of the bone easily (use a fork to test). If you’re using a thermometer, mackerel is a cold water fish and as such it should be ready when the meat is about 55 degrees centigrade (131F), but it’s so fatty it will stay nice and juicy way above that temperature too.
  • Serve with the baked new potatoes, sour cream sauce and some butter for those who want it. Easy living!