One of the things I miss most about living in Houston is having fresh fish at my fingertips. My favorite (and probably most iconic) seafood dish from the Gulf is grilled Redfish on the half shell.
Redfish (Red Drum) can be found in the bay area all along the Gulf coast, from Texas to Florida. This flaky fish has a medium-firm texture, and is sweet to mild in flavor.
This summer the cravings hit and we decided to call up Katie’s Seafood Market in Galveston, TX. We ended up flying in a bunch of Gulf fish, and I was particularly excited for grilled Redfish on the half shell again. I put a spin on a typical spicy Cajun recipe by using a fiery Harissa paste that is unbelievably good!
On The Half Shell
Cooking fish on the “half shell” means keeping the skin and scales intact. This creates a barrier between the meat which helps to keep the moisture in, and you can cook the fish fillet directly on the grill (no foil or pan = incredibly simple). The result is a perfectly flaky meat that slides right off the skin. If you don’t have Redfish, you can use any other flaky, medium-sized fish and leave the skin on (Snapper, Salmon,etc). For this recipe, I rubbed a little bit of oil over the fish, and then brushed a generous amount of spicy Harissa paste on top.
Harissa is a staple condiment in Tunisia and other North African cities such as Morocco Libya and Algeria. Recipes for Harissa vary from region to region, but most are composed of chiles, spices such as cumin and caraway, mint, garlic, and either lemon juice or vinegar. The uses for Harissa paste are seriously endless! You can use it to flavor and marinate meats and vegetables, enhance the flavors of soups, hummus, rice, or even pizza sauce!
I made my Harissa paste from scratch using a recipe I adapted from Saveur which is included below, but you could also find a jar of this online here or here. My version below is made with half Chile Arbol (Hot, similar to Cayenne) and half Guajillos chiles (mild), so it is a bit spicy. You can tone down the heat by using just mild chiles such as Guajillo, Ancho or Pasilla, or using Roasted Red Bell Peppers. (Click the link here for a great guide showing the heat scale of dried chiles)
The recipe makes a good cup or more of the paste and a little goes a long way. You can freeze some for later use, or get crafty and add it to any and everything you cook with throughout the week.
In my recipe below I have a dip to serve with the grilled Redfish. I swirled a spoonful of the Harissa paste into a bowl of Kefir (yogurt). The combination of the spicy garlicky paste and the tangy kefir makes a really delicious spread on Naan bread too!
You can eat this with pretty much any side veggie or grain you want, I made a refreshing Broccoli Tabbouleh to pair with it (recipe is coming soon!)
If you have never tried grilling fish on the half shell, give it a go and let me know how it turns out. I am willing to bet it becomes your new favorite way to cook fish!
- 2 lb. of Red Fish on the Half Shell (or 2 fillets of a large fish)
- Harissa Paste
- 1 C. of Plain Kefir or Greek Yogurt
- 4 oz. of mixed dried Chiles (2 oz each of Guajillo and Chile de Arbol)
- 6 cloves of Garlic, smashed
- ½ t. ground caraway seeds
- ½ t. ground coriander seeds
- ½ t. ground cumin seeds
- 2 t. White Wine Vinegar
- 2 t. fine grain salt (Optional: Smoked Salt)
- 3 T. Olive Oil
- Remove the stems and the seeds from the dried chiles by cracking them open. Place all the dried chiles in a large bowl and cover with boiling hot water. Cover the bowl and let the chilis soak for about 30 minutes to an hour to soften. Drain the water from the chilis and place into a food processor or blender.
- Add the garlic, caraway, coriander, cumin, vinegar, salt and olive oil. Blend until you reach a smooth consistency.
- Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze.
- Prepare the grill by heating it over medium high heat. Rub about a Tablespoon of oil over the fish, and then add about a Tablespoon of Harissa paste per filet of Redfish. Brush and coat the fish with the Harissa paste and then place directly on the grill (skin side down). Grill for about 15 minutes (may be longer depending on how thick your fish is), or until the fish flakes apart easily.
- Add a dollop of Harissa paste to a small bowl of Kefir/Yogurt and swirl to combine. Serve the Grilled Redfish with the Harissa Yogurt dip.