bluegills, wild chef, david draper,
Give grilled blugills a chance this summer for a healthy alternative to fried fish..
This summer, save bigger bluegills for the grill. David Draper

Remember those bluegills I told you how to scale last week? Well, you could certainly fry them, or instead, opt for a healthier and less messy alternative. I save small bluegills for the hot oil, but big, bulls—8 inches or larger—take the flames of a hot grill well, provided you monitor them closely to prevent overcooking. This technique works with any whole, scaled fish. It’s a fairly simple recipe, but it does require a hot grill with clean grates. Anything less, and the fish will stick and tear when you try to flip it.

Grilled Bluegill with Cilantro-Lime Gremolata

4 whole bluegill, scaled and gutted
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 lemon, halved

For the Cilantro-Lime Gremolata
½ cup packed cilantro, chopped fine
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Zest of one lime
1 Tbsp. lime juice
Kosher salt
Black pepper

1. In a small bowl, mix together the gremolata ingredients, stirring well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Pour the olive oil over both sides of the whole bluegills to coat lightly. Season liberally with kosher salt and black pepper.

3. Start enough coals to grill over high heat (or set your propane grill to high). When the coals are ready, spread them in an even layer and put grill grates in place. Cover the grill to heat the grates. Once the grates are hot, scrub them until they’re very clean. With tongs, rub the grates liberally with a vegetable-oil-soaked paper towel to season. Close the grill and heat for five minutes.

4. Place whole bluegills and halved lemons (cut side down) on the clean, oiled grates and cover. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the skin starts to crisp. Use a wide, flat spatula (or a fish spatula if you have one) to carefully turn the bluegills. Cook them on second side for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and the flesh is white and flakes easily.

5. Remove the grilled bluegill from heat and cover with a spoonful of gremolata. Serve with grilled lemons, mango salsa, and rice and beans.