Grilled red mullet
Updated: Mon, 4 January, 2021
Red mullet is small, beautifully coloured fish best enjoyed in early autumn. Perhaps that's why it has that rusty-pink, autumnal hue to its skin.
Red mullet is also known by its French name rouget which I'm fond of as it sounds nothing like the hideous haircut. Truly seasonal fish, it appears on the British fishmongers' stalls in late summer.
Small fish full of bones?
That may well be applicable to sardines and herring but not to red mullet. This one is astonishingly easy to eat even when cooked whole, as the little bones helpfully cling to the main bone with only a scattering along the sides. Nothing that would repel even a staunch fishbone-phobe.
Texture to die for
And the little mullet is the flakiest fish in the world. It is therefore hard to overcook; the commonest crime when cooking fish. It is juicy and succulent - I call fish flesh like that slimy in the best possible sense. If it grew bigger, it would probably make the meanest fish and chips.
Fillets or whole fish?
But since it is small, I think that filleting it is a bit of a waste, especially as the bones come out cleanly out of the whole cooked mullet. Interestingly, it is actually the smaller, the nicer; the overgrown specimen sometimes being on the mushy side.
How to cook red mullet
As above - don't fillet it unless you're a fancy chef creating a recherché starter. Grilling works the best because the resulting crisp pink skin of the rouget is just divine. I have never tried it on barbecue and would probably find it tricky - barbecuing fish is a blink of an eye between crisp and charcoaled - but a bbq master should certainly try.
Seasoning red mullet for the grill
None really needed if the fish is spanking fresh but I like a little anchovy butter brushed over that glorious skin to make it even more glorious.
And finally, a caveat - if only you can, ask your fishmonger to scale and gut it for you. I'm a dab hand at gutting fish but rouget is just SO MESSY it's better to leave that task to the professionals - otherwise you end up with mutilated fish flesh and yourself gutted.
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