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For this recipe, you tie a whole fresh caught fish to a plank of wood & cook it in a fireplace (hearth), an outdoor fire-pit, or in the oven. Adapted from chef John Folse,on Food Nation With Bobby Flay. This works great with any whole fish such as trout, flounder, etc.
- PLANK: 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. Place in preheated oven for 30 minutes (with a cookie sheet on the bottom rack to catch anything that may drip).
- Remove and allow to cool. Build a roaring fire in your fireplace (or fire pit) 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.
- PREP FISH: 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.
- 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 Or lean it almost vertical on a rock inside the fire-pit. 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 fire and serve on the plank for a unique presentation.
- CONVENTIONAL OVEN METHOD: 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 a cookie sheet on the lower rack underneath 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.