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Coral Trout Half Cocktail_Take one fish

Photography: Rob Palmer

Coral Trout with Syracuse Potatoes by Josh Niland

Take One Fish Cookbook_Josh Niland


Excerpt from: TAKE ONE FISH: The New School of Scale-to-Tail Cooking and Eating by Josh Niland (Hardie Grant, £26) Photography: Rob Palmer

05 August, 2021
Average: 4 (4 votes)

serves for



For the Coral Trout
1 × 2 kg (4 lb 6 oz) coral trout
All purpose flour
150 g (5½ oz/1 cup)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
150 g (5½ oz/2½ cups) white panko breadcrumbs
Grape seed oil
grapeseed oil, for brushing
sea salt flakes
70 g (2½ oz)
Marie rose sauce
130 g (4½ oz) quality thick mayonnaise
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
Worcester sauce
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh horseradish
A few drops of Tabasco sauce
Syracuse potatoes
Baby potatoes
1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) new potatoes, scrubbed clean
10 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf 120 g (4½ oz)
Fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground toasted

There is so much to love about the timeless prawn cocktail but who’s to say this beautiful marie rose sauce can’t bring the same magic to a fish? Coral trout flesh is so sweet it shines when lightly grilled, seasoned and served simply. But, like a cut of meat, the various muscles and parts cook at different times and temperatures, often using different methods.

Crumbed fish collars and cheeks are delicious, and essentially what I wish the fish fingers of my childhood had actually tasted like. Pairing crumbed parts of the coral trout with grilled is a wonderful gesture, and your guests will appreciate the care you’ve taken to achieve the best flavour.

Syracuse potatoes are a specialty of upstate New York, and I promise these salty, soft, yet waxy little spuds will win you over.

If preparing the coral trout in this way is too challenging, that’s fine. Just remove the fillets as you would normally, or ask your fishmonger to do it for you.

Step 01

To prepare the coral trout, first cut the collars off the fish and carve out the jowl. Debone the collars. Place the rest of the fish in the middle of a cutting board with the tail facing you and the belly cavity exposed and open. Using a sharp knife, cut down one side of the central spine as though you were going through the top side of the fish to remove the fillet, but once you reach the point where the fillet is about to be cut off but is still attached to the head, turn the fish so the head is now facing you. Using the top third of the knife, split the head in half. This will result in a fillet that still has the tail and the head intact. Remove the pin bones using fish pliers or tweezers, then repeat on the other side, laying the fish flat to the bench and again ensuring the head and tail remain intact on the fillet.

Step 02

Place the flour in one bowl, beat the eggs in another and tip the breadcrumbs into a third bowl.

Step 03

Dip the jowls and collars into the flour, then the egg wash and, lastly, into the breadcrumbs to coat completely, then place on a tray and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook.

Step 04

Prepare a charcoal grill, making sure the grill is hot and the charcoal has cooked down to hot embers. To create the gentle heat required for this particular method, take care not to overload your grill with too much charcoal and make sure the coals are spread evenly across the floor of the grill.

Step 05

Meanwhile, to make the marie rose sauce, mix together all the ingredients in a bowl. Set aside in the fridge until needed.

Step 06

For the Syracuse potatoes, place the potatoes and fresh herbs in a large saucepan and pour over enough water to just cover. Stir in the salt until completely dissolved. Bring to the boil over a high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender and the water has evaporated, about 40 minutes.

Step 07

Meanwhile, brush the skin of the coral trout halves with a little oil and season with salt flakes. Place on the grill, skin side down, and top with a fish weight or a saucepan for even heat transfer and colouration on the skin. Cook over a gentle heat for 10–12 minutes until the skin is evenly coloured and the flesh is translucent and registers 44-45°C (111-113°F) on a probe thermometer. (It is important to move the weight around every few minutes to conduct enough indirect heat to ensure the flesh is cooked gently.)

Step 08

Use an offset spatula to carefully transfer the coral trout halves to a large serving platter, then turn them over. Brush the skin with a little more grapeseed oil, season with another sprinkling of salt and leave to rest.

Step 09

While the fish is resting, heat the ghee in a frying pan over a medium–high heat to a light haze. Add the crumbed collars and cook for 2 minutes each side, then remove and drain on paper towel. Cook the jowls for 1½ minutes each side and set aside with the collars.

Step 10

To finish the potatoes, remove the pan from the heat and rest for 5–10 minutes to allow the salt crust to develop. Briefly return to the heat for another minute to toast the exterior of the potatoes and reinforce the salt crust.

Step 11

Pile the potatoes into a large bowl and dust with the ground fennel, if using.

Position the grilled coral trout in the centre of a large serving plate and spoon a generous amount of marie rose sauce into the spaces where the collars and jowls used to be. Return the crumbed parts of the fish to their original places, season with salt flake.

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