WHOLE FISH RECIPES
Whole butterflied and Grilled Hawaiian Kanpachi:
Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Garden Herbs
With Chef Vitaly Paley
This recipe relies on very few ingredients so we can honor this beautiful creature in its purest form. As this is not really a recipe, but more of a technique, feel free to substitute ingredients as you like. For example, sub parsley instead basil, if that’s what you have in your garden. If you don’t have course sea salt only kosher, that works too. No olive oil or lemon? You will need some kind of fat and some kind of acid. So have fun with it and make it your own.
Watch Video Here or read the recipe below:
To butterfly a fish is like to spatchcock a chicken. You would do it because it would cook more evenly and more quickly. But, if it’s intimidating, simply put it on the grill as is, bones and all. These will come out easily after the fish is done. Adjust your cooking time depending on how hot your grill gets.
If you are a city dweller and you have no grill? No problem, I got you. Just follow my oven method in this recipe.
You can serve this fish alongside warm tortillas, grilled pineapple salsa and guacamole. You can do something fancier by serving it with wild rice pilaf or stir-fry of vegetables. Most of all, enjoy this beautiful fish. It is delicious no matter which way you prepare and serve it.
Servers 4 to 6:
1 3-to-4-pound scaled, gilled and gutted Hawaiian Kanpachi, butterflied.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt, plus more for finishing
Juice of half a lemon, plus 4 to 5 lemon wedges to garnish the platter.
Handful of hand torn fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
To cook on the grill:
Preheat the grill until it is hot. Temperatures and times may vary depending on if you use charcoal or gas. You will need it hot, so the skin of the fish does not stick and gets crispy and bubbly. Rub the fish all over with only two tablespoons of oil. Hawaiian Kanpachi is an oily fish, and you don’t want the grill to flare up because of excess oil on it.
Rub it all over with two tablespoons of oil. If you have a fish basket big enough to hold the fish whole, place it into the basket, close it and set it on the grill skin side down. If you don’t have a fish basket and prefer to live dangerously like me, place the fish directly on the grill, skin side down and cook until you see the edges get lightly brown and the flesh on top starts to become white around the edges, about 10 minutes.
If you are cooking in a basket flip the fish over. If cooking directly on the grill, use a big spatula or two and carefully flip the fish over onto its flesh side. At this point, the fish should be two thirds cooked. I prefer to cook Hawaiian Kanpachi to be slightly underdone and pink inside. This should take approximately 5 minutes longer. If you like yours more well done, simply double the cooking time. Hawaiian Kanpachi is very forgiving. Because of its fat content it is hard to overcook.
When done, carefully transfer your fish to a serving platter, skin side down or skin side up is up to you. If you choose to serve it skin side up, it will help keep the skin crispy longer. I prefer to turn mine over and serve it skin side down so I can see the contrast of white flesh, specks of black pepper and sprinkling of green herbs on top.
Either way, sprinkle it generously with more salt, grind fresh pepper all over, toss a few torn leaves of basil all around, drizzle with lots more olive oil, garnish with lemon wedges and enjoy.
To cook in the oven:
Preheat the oven to 450 F. Place an ovenproof pan large enough to hold the whole fish and preheat the pan for at least 15 minutes. It helps if you have either a cast iron or a nonstick one but use whatever pan you have.
Rub the exterior and interior of the fish with two tablespoons of olive oil all over then with two tablespoons of salt. Open the oven, using oven mitts carefully remove the pan then slide the fish onto it. Place the pan back into the oven and cook the fish for about 20 minutes. If you are able, test with a probe thermometer. You want Internal temperature of the fish to register 130 F to 140 F for medium. Cook it longer if you like it more well done. If you don’t have a thermometer, insert a bamboo skewer or a pairing knife into the thickest part of the flesh. When it goes in without resistance, the fish is done. Cook it longer if it takes effort to go in.
When done, carefully transfer your fish to a serving platter, skin side down or skin side up is your choice. If you decide to serve it skin side up, it will help keep the skin crispy longer. I prefer to turn mine over and serve it skin side down so I can see the contrast of white flesh, specks of black pepper and sprinkling of green herbs on top.
Either way, sprinkle it generously with more salt, grind fresh pepper all over, toss some torn leaves of basil, drizzle with lots more olive oil, garnish with lemon wedges and enjoy.
Dungeness Crab Stuffed and Roasted Hawaiian Kanpachi:
Crab Beurre Fondue
With Chef Paley
I know what you are thinking…
Whole roasted fish?
How long is this going to take?
This dish is not going to come together in an hour. Well, maybe, if you are focused, but why rush?
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, wrote in The Physiology of Taste “The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a star.” I wholeheartedly agree. Now that I am reciting famous quotes, here is another:
“The whole is greater
than the sum of its parts” -Aristotle
Mr. Aristotle, were you hungry for Dungeness Crab Stuffed Hawaiian Kanpachi when you wrote this?
Ok, all joking aside, if you allow yourself some uninterrupted time in the kitchen, I promise the experience of making this dish will be a positive one and you and your guests will be rewarded with something very, very uniquely special.
To debone and butterfly a whole Hawaiian Kanpachi, check out this helpful video.
If you still don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, ask your fish monger to help. Most will embrace the challenge.
Dungeness crab stuffed and roasted Hawaiian Kanpachi (Serves 4 to 6)
1-pound Dungeness crab meat
1 wheel Boursin cheese, any flavor
Zest of half an orange
1 large scallion - root trimmed, washed, dried, and sliced thin
1 small fennel bulb - tops trimmed, cored, washed, dried, and finely diced
1 rib celery - trimmed, washed, dried, and finely diced
¼ cup picked parsley leaves -washed, dried, and finely chopped
¼ cup picked sill sprigs - coarsely chopped.
¼ cup picked mint leaves - washed, dried, and finely chopped.
¼ cup picked basil leaves - washed, dried, and finely chopped.
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
Kosher salt freshly ground black pepper
1, 3-to-4-pound deboned whole Hawaiian Kanpachi
2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
1 cold stick of butter - cut into ½ inch pieces.
Several lemon wedges for garnish
To make the stuffing:
Prepare a straight sided sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Set up a fine mesh strainer over a large mixing bowl, transfer the crab meat into the strainer. Grab a handful of crab, cupping your hands, squeeze as much liquid out of crab as you can directly over the strainer filled with crab into a bowl underneath. Transfer the squeezed crab meat onto a prepared sheet pan and repeat with the rest of crab meat.
Transfer the resulting crab water into a smaller container, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to make the sauce. Depending on how moist the crab is, you should have approximately quarter cup of crab water.
Spread the crab meat on half of the sheet and using your fingers pick through the meat little by little feeling for small bits of shells. As you pick through the first batch of crab and its free of shells, push it to the open side of the sheet pan separating picked from to be picked. Repeat until all the crab is picked through and is on the opposite half of the sheet pan. Discard the bits of shell. Transfer the picked crab meat into a small container, cover and refrigerate until ready to make stuffing.
In a large mixing bowl, assemble Boursin cheese, orange zest, sliced scallions, fennel, celery, parsley, dill, mint, and basil. Combine it together with a potato masher or a fork. Add the reserved crab meat, Old Bay, breadcrumbs and mix until it is well combined. Taste, for seasoning. You may not need any salt or pepper as Old Bay, crab and Boursin cheese are all well-seasoned. If you are not ready to proceed to the next step, transfer the stuffing into a smaller container, cover and refrigerate. This stuffing will hold well refrigerated for several hours. I don’t recommend making it too far in advance like the day before as herbs tend to lose their freshness quickly.
To stuff your Hawaiian Kanpachi, open the fish on a cutting board skin side down. Season it generously with salt and pepper on all sides. Place the stuffing in the middle of the fish and start pushing the stuffing along the spine towards the head and the tail. Don’t spread or flatten the stuffing too much as it will naturally do this when you fold the filet over. Pay particular attention to the head cavity, it can hold quite a bit of stuffing so take advantage of this gift of space. When you feel the stuffing is in the right place, fold one of the filets over the other and press gently. Look at your handy work, make sure there is about a half an inch border all around where you can clearly see the unstuffed filet. As fish cooks, it contracts, and it would be a shame to lose this precious stuffing in a hot pan.
Now it’s time to tie the fish so it stays together as it cooks. Start by cutting several pieces of butcher’s twine each about 3 to 4 times the width of the fish. Slide one at a time under the fish from tail to head and position them about an inch apart. Tie them all individually firmly but gently to not pierce through the flesh. Cut off the access string.
When ready to cook Kanpachi, place a cast iron griddle or a sturdy baking sheet inside the oven and preheat to 400F.
Pour the olive oil into the griddle. Carefully place the stuffed Kanpachi into the pan and cover the oven door. Let the fish cook for 15 minutes. Open the oven and using thongs or spatula or both, carefully turn the fish over. Close the oven and cook it for an additional 15 minutes. If you are able, test with a probe thermometer. You want the Internal temperature of the fish to register 140F to 145F for medium. Cook it longer if you like it done more. If you don’t have a thermometer, insert a bamboo skewer or a paring knife into the thickest part of the fish. If it goes in without resistance, the fish is done. Cook it longer if it takes effort to go in.
Carefully remove the fish and transfer it to the cutting board. Let it rest while making the sauce.
To make the Crab Fondue Sauce:
Pour in the reserved crab water into small saucepan and over high heat bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and while stirring with a whisk add the cold butter couple pieces at a time until all is incorporated, melted, and emulsified. Do not boil or simmer the sauce as it will break. When done, set aside, and keep warm.
When ready to serve, using a small paring knife or sharp scissors, cut all the strings off and discard. Using a sharp knife, bread knife may work well too, cut Kanpachi into about two-inch slices, carefully place the slices on a platter reassembling the shape of the fish as best as possible. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with the Crab Fondue sauce.