Photograph by Darren Braun
I once enjoyed barbecuing in our backyard for family and friends. Entirely untutored, I made up everything. Not that I was incapable of learning. First, if you buy good fillets and a respectable marinade, it’s hard to go wrong unless you overcook the meat. Second, if you are barbecuing fish, buy it at a seafood restaurant that has a market attached. I always figured good eateries go through a lot of catch, and I’d have to own a boat to get anything fresher. Another suggestion: Don’t clutter up a nice swordfish with a complicated soak. Lemon juice, salt, and pepper are sufficient. Finally: Keep the cook well plied with booze. Why don’t I barbecue anymore? We took in brother retriever puppies who seized the backyard, ate the flowers, dug up the lawn. I held my own until the day one of them looked me in the eye, lifted his right leg, and threw down a challenge all over the bottom of my three-knob, gas-fed, stainless steel lidded barbecue with an extra burner for baked beans.
Check out Barbeques Galore for the best selection of wood chips in town: alder, apple, mesquite, oak, pecan, maple, hickory, and cherry (three-pound bag, $4.99). For cedar slabs—ideal for cooking fish—head to Cost Plus (pack of four, $14.99).
Your local Mexican or Central American grocery carries inexpensive (just over five bucks a pound), delicious, and convenient premarinated carnitas that you can have spiced to your liking. One of our favorites is Alhambra Market (2289 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-289-2766).
The mistake people make when grilling fish is keeping it on too long, says Robert Sperry, an employee at Fish King (722 N. Glendale Ave., Glendale, 818-244-2161). “Stick to swordfish or salmon,” he says. “They have enough body fat to stay moist. Five minutes a side for a one-inch steak should be fine.” Use a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature is at least 145 degrees.