108 OPEN-HEARTH GRILLED FISH | Hooks, Lies & Alibis with Chef John Folse | LPB
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Thursday, September 20, 2018
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Prep Time: 1 Hour
Yields: 6 Servings

There was only one way to roast a fish in the open-hearth prior to the invention of the reflector oven. The cook would place a seasoned, whole fish on an oak, pecan or cedar plank. Then, the plank would be placed upright on the sidewall of the hearth. The reflective heat from the coals cooked the fish. This dish works equally well in the home fireplace.

1 (3–4 pound) red snapper, clean, head-on, tail-on and gills removed
¼ cup olive oil
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
granulated garlic to taste
Louisiana hot sauce to taste
¼ cup chopped thyme leaves
¼ cup chopped basil
¼ cup chopped tarragon
¼ cup chopped dill
1 bunch mixed herbs

Method (Hearth):
Have the local lumber company cut an 8” x 20” piece of oak, pecan or cedar. Be sure to measure your hearth height and width before cutting the plank. Oil the plank thoroughly with olive oil, rubbing well into the pores of the wood. To season, place oiled plank in a 200°F oven for 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely. Build a roaring fire in your hearth using 4–5 pieces of firewood, so a large coal bed will be achieved. NOTE: Remember that you cook on reflective heat in a fireplace, not the fire itself, so coals are important. Once a coal bed has been established, keep one log burning on the back of the fireplace to sustain the coals. Completely scale the fish, leaving the head and tail intact. Remove the gills and rinse well inside and out. Using a sharp paring knife, cut 3 slits on each side of the fish to the bone. These slits will be used for seasoning but also to ensure proper cooking. Rub the fish with olive oil and season inside and out with salt, pepper, granulated garlic and hot sauce. Place chopped herbs in a small mixing bowl and blend thoroughly. Rub herb mixture in each of the 6 slits and completely over fish then fill belly cavity with whole mixed herbs. Place seasoned fish on plank and hammer a 3-inch nail through eye of fish. Hammer another nail 2 inches from bottom of tail. Hammer in 2 nails, opposite each other, at 3-inch intervals down each side of the fish. Using heavy butcher’s twine, tie a knot on the nail through the eye of the fish and lace the twine around each nail, shoelace style, criss-crossing the fish. Tie a knot on the nail at the bottom of the board. The twine will guarantee that the fish stays in place, flat against the board, during the baking process. Using a fireplace shovel, remove the hot coals from the right or left side of the fireplace approximately 1-foot from the edge. Place the fish, head side up, against the side of the fireplace, so as to be heated by the reflective coals. Be careful that the plank does not get near an open flame as the board will ignite. Turn the fish every 30 minutes, first head up and then down. The fish will cook in approximately 1 hour, depending on heat, and will pick up the wonderful smoke flavor of the hearth. You can test the flesh for doneness with a kitchen fork. The underside of the fish will cook at the same rate since the plank is picking up the heat of the hearth. Remove and serve on the plank for a unique presentation.

Method (Conventional Oven):
Pre-heat oven to 275°F. Have the local lumber company cut an 8”x20”piece of oak, pecan or cedar. Oil the plank thoroughly with olive oil, rubbing well into the pores of the wood. To season, place oiled plank in a 200°F oven for 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Prepare and season fish as described above, and return to these instructions once cavity is stuffed with mixed herbs. Place fish lengthwise on the hot plank and put plank on a cookie sheet to catch any drippings that may run off during cooking. Bake on center rack of oven for approximately 20 minutes or until fish is flaky. There is no need to turn fish during the cooking process as the plank will ensure even cooking on both sides. Remove and serve on plank for a unique presentation.

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