Open Hearth Grilled Fish
Have the local lumber company cut a piece of oak, pecan, or cedar 8 inches wide and 20 inches long. 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.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
To season the wood, place in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Build a roaring fire in your fireplace using 4 to 5 pieces of firewood in order to achieve a large coal bed. 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 1 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 the inside cavity. Using a sharp paring knife, cut 3 slits on each side of the fish to the bone. These slits will be used for seasoning and to ensure proper cooking. Rub the fish with olive oil and season inside and out with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Place chopped herbs in a small mixing bowl and blend thoroughly. Rub herb mixture in each of the 6 slits and on the outside of the fish. Fill the belly cavity with whole mixed herbs. Using heavy butcher's twine, tie the fish to the board in a criss-cross fashion and tie a knot underneath the board to secure it. The twine will guarantee that the fish stays in place and 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. 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 tail up. The fish will need to cook about 1 hour, depending on heat. 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 from fireplace and serve on the plank for a unique presentation.Cooking Instructions for a Conventional Oven:
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Cure the plank as described above and then follow seasoning instructions for fish. Place the fish lengthwise on the hot plank and place on a cookie sheet to catch any drippings that may run off during cooking. Bake on the center rack of the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until fish is flaky. There is no need to turn the fish during the cooking process. Remove and serve on the plank for a unique presentation.
There was only 1 way to roast a fish in the open hearth prior to the reflector oven. The cook would place a seasoned, whole fish on an oak, pecan, or cedar plank. Then the plank would be placed standing upright on the sidewall of the hearth. The reflective heat from the coals cooked the fish. Fish can be prepared in the same manner in a home fireplace.
Professional Recipe: This recipe was provided by a chef, restaurant or culinary professional and makes a large quantity. The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe in the proportions indicated and therefore cannot make any representation as to the results.
Recipe courtesy Chef John Folse