Grouper: cook whole or fillet it?
Today at the grocery store, we picked up a fresh, whole grouper (called hammour here in Dubai). I had thought about pan frying it with some lemon, but have read in places that it must be skinned since the skin is very strong tasting.
So - should I skin it? Fillet it? Or should I just cook it whole (currently, it's gutted) and see?
Here on the central west coast of Florida the US grouper capital, I have never seen grouper steaked. It is usually served as a fillet. Grouper is a pretty thick fish and would take some time to cook whole. Not something you could toss in a pan for a few minutes. Of course we can only take grouper 20-22 inches or over so they are on the large side. I've eaten it whole and it's great. No off flavors from the skin. I have made crispy grouper skin and it's delicious. Not sure if different species of grouper have stronger tasting skin. What we get here is red, black and gag grouper.
Oh please, do you have a good recipe? This is the one fish that has just confounded me. After two attempts, DH had declared it objectionable because I just couldn't get it right. The thick filets caused problems when I tried to fry them the way that I enjoyed them in Florida, and the next time I made them paneed (finished in the oven) but he hated the seasonings and the texture. Yet he will eat the same seasoning happily on Texas Redfish.
I like grouper whole...I like most fish whole (although that can be inconvenient with some tuna or halibut ;-)
I don't find the skin strong tasting, but rather quite delicious, especially when crisped in the pan or on the grill. The skin also holds everything together a little better.
It may depend on who's eating; many people simply don't like a cooked fish with head, tail, etc (they might find it off-putting...). Others do not like to fuss with bones and want only the fillet portion. If this is the case, filleting might be the best bet.
If you decide on whole (my suggestion), make sure you scale it first. A few slits into the skin and flesh allow better heat distribution and cooking. Pan frying is nice, I like grilling. The tail makes a nice crispy addition and the cheek fillets are nice.
I'm getting hungry...
depending on how fresh the grouper is.
In Cantonese cuisine, fresh groupers (I mean live in water the moment before they are cooked) are usually served whole by steaming with just soy, ginger, and scallions. I will only recommend this method if the fish is really really fresh.
As porker mentioned, the head and tail of the grouper are all delicious so if the diners don't mind I will go with the whole fish. However, grilling or baking in the oven will be better and it is really hard to get all the parts to cook evenly on a pan.
If you were to do fillets, I just had a delicious grouper entree at Gramercy Tavern. It was basically 3 fillets (or nuggets) of grouper seared to have a crispy outside (no skins) placed on top of a bed of sauteed sweet onion (very soft and almost creamy) with some jumbo sliced wild mushroom. It was very tasty.
Grouper does not necessarily need acidity as the taste is very mild. Just don't overcook it.