Something Fishy

Even here in landlocked Colorado, a home chef can grill up some delicious fish on a summer evening. Chef Jasper Schneider, who leads the kitchen at Wyld in Avon’s Ritz-Carlton, offers a few tips.

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Learn how to recognize high-quality seafood

“If it’s a white fish, make sure it’s translucent and clear. Tuna should be red and sushi-quality. Salmon should be a nice, bright orange. If you’re buying whole fish, like trout, the eyes should be clear and the gills should be bright red. If the gills are brown and discolored, you know it isn’t fresh. Nothing you buy should ever be slimy and, counterintuitively, it should never smell like fish. It should smell like the sea, like saltwater.”

Prep your grill right

“Get your grill nice and hot—a medium to high heat. If you’re cooking fish with skin, I always recommend the grill being hotter. You want it hot because if you’re cooking at 200 to 300 degrees, all you’re doing is steaming the fish, which can make it mushy. You’re not going to sear it and get the texture you want. Always wipe the grill down with some grapeseed or canola oil to prevent sticking. Don’t use olive oil. It will get bitter.”

Prep the fish

“Always get the fish close to room temperature before cooking. Never put it on cold. I like using fine sea salt, seasoned on both sides evenly, skin-side and flesh-side. You can always put a fresh piece of dill, thyme, or rosemary on top of the fish as it’s cooking, and you can even sprinkle on some fennel pollen, which adds extra aromatics.”

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Cook it skin-side down, and leave it be

“If you’re doing fillets with skin, cook with the skin-side down so it gets nice and crispy. If you’re not doing skin, try to cook only one side of the fish, so it creates a crust. The meat inside should stay nice and moist if only one side touches the grill. When you flip it and cook both sides, it dries out the middle. Also, when it’s on the grill, don’t move it around. Same thing in a pan. Keeping it in one place helps create that crust.”

Don’t overcook it

“Normally, fish can take anywhere from four to seven minutes, depending on the grill. If you’re covering the grill, it will cook a lot quicker because the trapped heat is baking the fish at the same time as it’s grilling.”

Finish it off

“I like grilling lemon or orange wedges on the side. When the fish comes off, squeeze a bit of the fresh juice over it. Drizzle a finishing oil—a nice, fruity extra virgin olive oil—over the fish, and then sprinkle a little Maldon salt over it for a textural crunch. You can serve it right away or let it cool. Your preference.”

Chef Jasper Schneider got his start training under Eric Ripert of NYC’s three-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin and has spent more than 25 years working in kitchens from St. Thomas to Anguilla. He now serves as executive chef at Wyld, the signature restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, which opened in 2016.