Basque-Style Grilled Whole Turbot Recipe

This grilled whole fish epitomizes the restraint and technique of Basque charcoal-grilling.

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Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • Drizzling turbot with a simple vinaigrette while it cooks over a hot grill keeps the skin from drying out.
  • Natural gelatin from the cooked turbot helps form a thickened sauce when rapidly stirred together with the vinaigrette.
  • Serving the entire fish allows you to appreciate all the little morsels, including the succulent meat around the fins and cheeks.

Grilled whole turbot is a mainstay on the Spanish Basque coast, particularly in the fishing village of Getaria, which is famous for the seafood that arrives at the docks from the Bay of Biscay, and the region's bright, energetic white wine, Txakoli (you may also hear it called Txakolina). A flat fish with very high amounts of natural gelatin, turbot is well-suited for grilling whole, with its scaleless skin trapping the gelatin as it cooks, keeping it rich and succulent even over high heat.

A simple vinaigrette is drizzled over the turbot while it's on the grill. This vinaigrette keeps the skin from drying out, and eventually becomes a sauce when it's stirred together and emulsified with the gelatin-rich cooking juices from the turbot.

Recipe Facts

Active: 15 mins
Total: 25 mins
Serves: 2 to 3 servings

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Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) white wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (2- to 2 1/2 pound/ 1kg) whole turbot, gutted

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon (2g) salt. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Alternatively, place ingredients in a tightly sealing jar, seal, and shake vigorously until emulsified. Transfer vinaigrette to a container with a pourable spout, ideally a squeeze bottle (if you own one), or a liquid measuring cup. Set aside.

  2. About 30 minutes before grilling, remove turbot from refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Light 1 chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate.

  3. Thoroughly pat turbot dry with paper towels, and season dark-skin-side assertively with salt. Place turbot in grilling basket (if using), and set over hot side of grill, dark-skin-side down. Cook until skin begins to blister slightly, about 4 minutes. Season white-skin side with salt, then flip fish over.

  4. Cook white-skin side until skin begins to blister slightly, about 4 minutes. While white-skin-side cooks, drizzle dark-skin side heavily with vinaigrette (using about 1/3 of it). Flip turbot back over, and cook dark-skin side until skin is well-blistered and flesh is opaque, about 4 minutes longer. While turbot cooks, drizzle white-skin side heavily with vinaigrette (again using about 1/3 of it). Remove turbot from grill and transfer to a large rimmed serving platter.

  5. Drizzle remaining vinaigrette over turbot.

    Carve turbot, reserving fins and head, and transfer fillets to serving plates; discard spine. Tilt serving platter towards you so that vinaigrette and juices from turbot pool at the bottom. Using a spoon, rapidly stir liquid as if whisking, until mixture thickens and emulsifies, 15 to 30 seconds. Spoon vinaigrette over fillets, and serve right away. For the adventurous, place serving platter in the center of the table, encouraging people to pick at the cheeks and meat from the head of the turbot, and to pick up the fins with their hands and eat the meat off the bone.

Special equipment

Charcoal grill, chimney starter

Notes

Turbot can be purchased at a good fishmonger, although you may need to pre-order it, or can be ordered online from reputable sources, like Browne Trading Company.

Make-Ahead and Storage

This dish is best enjoyed immediately.

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