Grilled Fish Hoagies with Za’atar, Harissa Aioli, and Carrot Cilantro Pickle

August 21, 2014
3 Ratings
Photo by Alpha Smoot
  • Makes 4 sandwiches
Author Notes

Lobster rolls get all the seasonal seafood sandwich love. I’m not here to debate the merits of their moment in the sun; after all, I live in Maine and enjoy them often. But I would lobby a little for grilled fish heroes, subs, and grinders as a suitable summer’s end change of pace. —cheese1227

What You'll Need
  • Carrot Jicama Pickle
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup julienned or shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup julienned or shredded jicama
  • 15 sprigs of cilantro, tough ends cut off, tender parts of stems and leaves, chopped
  • Harissa Aioli and Grilled Fish Sandwich
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil, plus more for oiling the grill
  • 1 teaspoon harissa paste
  • 1 teaspoon minced preserved lemon
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • Four 6-ounce fillets of firm-fleshed fish such as halibut, striped bass, tilapia, swordifsh, or grouper, kept very cold
  • 4 crusty rolls that mimic the shape of the fish you choose
  • 8 pieces of crisp red leaf lettuce
  1. To make the pickle, combine sugar, salt, and vinegar in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Add carrots and jicama. Cover and sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, or overnight in the fridge. Just before serving, stir in cilantro.
  2. To make the aioli, mash garlic and salt together to get a paste. Transfer paste to a food processor. Add egg yolks, mustard, and lemon juice. Pulse processor to combine ingredients. While blade is running, slowly add olive oil, drip by drip. After olive oil has emulsified with the other ingredients, add canola oil at a slightly faster pace – but never quicker than a slow steady stream, or the emulsification may break. Aioli should be slightly thinner than store-bought mayonnaise. If you need to thin it, add teaspoons of warm water one at a time. Stir in harissa and minced preserved lemon. Refrigerate aioli until you are ready to use. It will keep refrigerated for 3 to 4 days.
  3. Combine za’atar and salt. Set aside.
  4. To prepare the grill the fish, heat grill to high heat. Cover the grill so the grates get very, very hot. Open the cover and use a steel brush (or tongs and a ball of foil) and some elbow grease to completely clean the grates. Cover again for 2 to 3 more minutes to bring the grates back to that piping hot level.
  5. Liberally dampen a wad of paper towel with canola or grapeseed oil. Grab the wad with a pair of tongs, and rub the towels along the grates of the grill or on the grill pan indoors to oil them well. Repeat this process 3 or 4 times. Turn heat down to medium high.
  6. Remove the fillets from the refrigerator and pat dry.
  7. Place fish on the grill, skin-side down (there will be no skin on these fillets, but I am referring to the side of the fillet that used to have the skin on here). After about 2 minutes, you will see the lower half of the fillet closest to the heat starting to turn opaque. It’s time to flip. Use a fish spatula (one that is wide and has a tapered end) to gently loosen the underside of the fillet from the grill and flip quickly. Cook for another 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. To test if the fillet is done, gently use the fish spatula to pry open the middle flakes of the fish. If they are just opaque, you’re good to go.
  8. Remove fillets from the grill and place on a warm plate, dust liberally with za’atar mixture, and let rest 2 minutes while you assemble the sandwiches.
  9. Slice rolls across their middles on open them wide. Layer two leaves of lettuce on the bottom half of each roll. Top with about 1/4 cup of carrot pickle and a piece of grilled fish. Slather on a good tablespoon of aioli and cap the sandwich with the other half of the roll.

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I am an excellent eater (I have been all my life). I’m a pretty good cook (Ask my kids!). And my passable writing improves with alcohol (whether it's the writer or the reader that needs to drink varies by sentence.). I just published my first cookbook, Green Plate Special, which focuses on delicious recipes that help every day cooks eat more sustainably.

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