Fruit and fish: What makes these two items go so well together? Well, not all fruit goes with fish, and you have to consider what kind of fish that you’re going to be putting fruit on. Stuffing a trout with watermelon doesn’t sound like it would be any good.
But consider a piece of watermelon that was grilled just enough to put some char on it from the hot grill grates, and then served with a piece of grilled local fish. I think that might be good, but I’d want to jazz that melon up with some kind of citrus. I’d probably zest a lime and orange and fold that together, then toss a bit on the melon and fish.
I would still think it needed something, so I’d then start adding heat with a shot of Sriracha sauce and go from there. A quick drizzle of Sriracha will add color and flavor to just about any dish.
I would also add the juice from both the lime and the orange into the dish to bring some acidity. The watermelon might have a bit of acidity too, depending its ripeness, but citrus is a much better source for adding acid to fish or meat.
When I was a kid, my dad would put salt and pepper on his watermelon just about every time he cut one up for us on the tailgate of his old ‘74 F100 somewhere in or around Zolfo Springs. I think a little Montreal seasoning also goes well on a piece of melon.
Whoops, I squirreled — back to this recipe. We’re going to be using a piece of local fish, some citrus and some watermelon. For the fish, I would choose a thicker piece of grouper. I want the texture to stand up to the acid and heat that will be in the dish.
The fillet will be seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper, then grilled on both sides (taking care not to overcook or undercook the fish but burn the edges). If you’re concerned this might happen, just turn your oven on before you start to grill. After grilling both sides, you can finish it in your preheated oven.
The melon be sliced about an inch thick, dusted with some Montreal seasoning and grilled on for 1 minute on each side.
To finish the dish, I’ll take the zest and juice from one orange and one lime, whisk them together with a bit of salt and pepper, and drizzle that over the cooked fish and melon. You could add some garlic if you really wanted to, but I don’t think it’s needed since we are going to add a bit of hot sauce to the dish.
You could go ahead and add the hot sauce to the citrus juice mixture to stretch the sauce. If you do that, be sure to taste it before you add it to your dish. If it’s too hot, add a small amount of water or more juice to tone down the spiciness.
This recipe will work with lots of other seafood, like local shrimp or any of the snapper under your dock that are legal to keep.
Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.