A long time chef who has cooked for celebrities like Bruce Willis, Rod Stewart and Keith Richards, Johnny Graham has also catered many local parties and events through his Revel Catering on High Street in the Historic Lohman Opera house. He has a second home in Martha’s Vineyard, where he once owned a restaurant and spends months in the summer there where there is abundant seafood that he loves to grill for a lighter and tasty twist to summer barbecues.
Why should we incorporate seafood into summer meals?
It’s fun! It’s a little different. I am an unapologetic meat eater, but it’s nice to add some variety to those long dog days of summer, and there are a lot of options in the world of seafood.
Most fish will take no more than 8 or 10 minutes to grill, which is part of the beauty of it. You can cut some vegetables, season a piece of fish and have dinner on the table in 15 minutes.
What do we need to keep in mind when choosing and seasoning fish?
• Fresh is Best: The most important part of grilling fish is using fresh fish. Ideally you may have caught it, but always buy the freshest thing available from a reputable source.
• CITRUS! I love, love, love using citrus when grilling seafood because it brings a brightness to any fish that a heavy sauce covers up. Marinades work wonders, especially for a stronger flavored fish. Sometimes the simplest preparation is the best. My wife Lori caught a pile of Silver Salmon while we were in Alaska last September, and we cut the salmon fillets into 5 or 6 ounce portions, rubbed a little extra virgin olive oil, flaky sea salt and some herbs snipped fresh from the garden onto the fish and grilled it to medium rare. Then we moved it to a lower heat area to rest with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
What’s better for the smoker and what’s better for the grill?
• There are certain fish that are just too flaky, or delicate, to put on the grill. Most any fish, though, will work in a grill basket, a fantastic tool to have for smaller things that might otherwise fall through the grill plates.
• The more oily the fish or those with a higher fat content are good for the smoker. Examples are fresh sardines, salmon, mackerel or bluefish. Drop fillets in a simple salt and brown sugar brine for 24 hours and then smoke on medium heat for a couple of hours. I love serving smoked fish with soda crackers and wedges of limes & lemons!
Any cooking tips?
• Have a clean grill! Always brush it clean with a quality grill brush as soon as you’re finished with the grill for the evening. After starting the grill, I like to brush it clean again. Once the grill is hot, I take a rag with some vegetable oil on it, and wipe the grill surface to pick up remaining grime.
• The grill should be hot. I prefer to use medium-low or non-direct heat. Sometimes, depending on the consistency of the fish (whether firm or flaky), I may mark the piece of fish over high heat and then move it to a lower heat area of the grill.
How do we know when seafood is ready?
• Most fish will change color somewhat. A white fish will go from translucent to all white, salmon will get lighter, etc.
• Have all of the other elements of your meal ready to go when the seafood hits the grill.
• Don’t over cook because most fish will dry out. You can always put it back on the grill. I cook fish a little less, because it will finish as it rests.