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Grilled Mullets (Sievoi Rostii su la Grea)

Contributed by Lucia Fanton


Grilled Mullets

Introduction

The Mullet Family is the richest of the subspecies in the fish fauna from the Venetian Lagoon. Among these, the causteli, the lotragani, the botoli, the verzelate, the baicoli (quite similar to basses), the batauri, the varioli varieties can be found. These varieties are distinguishable by the color of their backs and skin of their belly, the more or less flattening of the muzzle, the tail, the tightness of the scales, and the head color.

It is relevant to make sure the mullets are da bon, with their stomach empty. This condition is known in the market as fishes perform almost constant feeding habits, and fishermen are aware of it. When the water is running with the lowering tide, no fish eats, because the reflowing tide washes away all the dirt and other garbage from the canals. The lowering tide is like a deoxygenized blood in a human vein.

When the tide goes in balansa co la colma, which means in Venetian, the half-an-hour stop on top of the tide before starting to lower down, the fishes stop eating. The fish will start feeding again after the half-an-hour stop before the tide rise again. They will eat only when the fresh water comes in from the sea. Except for the lotragan which can also be fried, the best method of cooking all the species of mullets is to grill them on charcoal.

The typical Venetian grill used to be a square, earthenware pot used to contain the embers, which is closed on the top, with a grill of parallel irons that are spaced at about one centimeter in between. It was quite small, as it was destined to be used on windowsills. Be advised that this cooking produces smoke, and a very intense aroma that could not fit the taste of those persons in the neighborhood that are not particularly hungry. This habit caused quite a lot of squabbles due to wind quirks but the use of it has now nearly disappeared.

Ingredients

da bon mullets (degutted)
minced garlic and parsley
oil
salt and pepper
lemon
white maize porridge, with toasted slices

Method

The fishes must be well select first, assuring that they are fresh by checking the eyes and gills, and if the fishes are da bon, meaning the stomach is empty. This is checked by applying pressure on the fishes’ belly with the fingers to see some drops of usually greenish mash are discharged through the thin sphincter that is located between the tail and the tummy on the fishes’ belly. If the fish does not fit the criteria or quality desired, choose another one. If none is in a shop, the fisherman must have fished at the wrong hours, thus it must be bought elsewhere. The stomach must be empty as the fish is going to be cooked whole and its entrails are supposed to be the tidbit.

The mullets must be neither washed nor scaled as the plates will be detach while cooking which will preserve the skins of the fish from carbonizing in stripes along the grill irons.

The grill itself should not have too large irons and must be fed with charcoal. Light the grill up and while it is heating, mince garlic and parsley then mix in a cup with olive oil, pepper and salt.

When the grill is already hot, place the mullets on top and cook on one side first. When it is easy to detach from the grill, flip it on the other side and sprinkle a little salt on the cooked side. Do the same on the other side. Take it away from the fire and once set in a dish, sprinkle the oil mix made earlier.

This food can be served hot or cold, with very warm white maize porridge and toasted slices.

To experience the best degustation of the course, follow these instructions:

Carefully debone one or two fishes according to portion sizes, and set the fillets in a table-dish over a couple of hot toasted maize porridge slices.

Guests can be asked if they like to eat the entrails of the fish called el boton. If the guest will refuse, the entrails can be saved for eating later in private. They are really worth it.

Squeeze with spoon and fork against the dish, the head of the fishes, and then stir the bones and the heads with a mixture of lemon juice, some olive oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the juice mixture on the fillets, tilting the dish, paying attention of course, to stop the fish bones and other solid scraps from dropping on the fillets using a fork.

Original Venetian Version

El çievolame.

La fameja de i çievoli la xe la più granda che ghe sia.

Intanto no se gà da confondar i �ievoli da la boseghe o da i branzini, che xe tuta altra roba. De quela fameja fa parte i causteli, i lotragani, i botoli, i verzelate, i baicoli (i ghe someja al branzin), i batauri, i varioli.

Se li distingue dal color de la pele su la schiena e su la pansa,, dal muso più o manco schissà, da la coa, da le s-ciame più o manco compate, da el color del testa.

La morte del çievolo, a parte el lotragan che se pol anca frizerlo, la xe su la graela.
Ma no la graela de adesso che la xe sora el gaz, ma la graela de carbonela.
E adesso ve conto come che mi i fassevo co jero in bottega.

So ben che calchedun saltar� fora a contarme che lu li fa in altro modo: ma a mi no me interessa un .. tubo, parch� digo come che MI li fassevo e come che i me clienti i tornava contenti e i me lassava anca dei bei bessi de mancia.
Donca, prima de tuto bisogna saverli crompar. Vardar prima de tuto se i xe da bon o i ga la coccia. Vardarli su i oci e soto le branche, po� bisogna strucarghe la pansa par vedar se i xe da bon. Se dal buso del cu.lo che i ga soto la pansa, a strucandondoghela, vine fora el pacio no i xe da bon, se invessi no vien fora gnente i xe da bon.

Me dimandarè percossa e par come. E mi ve lo diso. El mejo bocon del çievolo, par un venexian, el xe el boton, ossia el buelo e el stomego col figadin che tr� a l�amaro in boca de primo achito, ma che la lassa dolse dopo.
Gavè da saver che el xe da bon parchè nol ga gnancora magnà gnente. E sto qua xe par el motivo che i animali i sa magnar mejo de noantri! Infati co l’aqua xe de dozana nessun pesse magna, parch� la dozana porta fora tuto el sporchesso che ghe xe in ziro par i canali e par la laguna. Alora da quando che ghe xe el colmo de marea a da quando che l’aqua va in balansa co la colma tuti i pessi se ferma de magnar, e i torna a magnar co l’aqua la xe de novo in balansa e la scominsia a cressar parchè la xe più neta. Ciameli mone�.

Ohh, ve disevo come che se li cusina.
Mi go ancora un de quei vasi de teracota che ‘na volta vendeva i carboneri e lo tegno ancora come �na reliquia: el sarà anca tuto taconà, co le regete de fero par tegnirlo in sesto, ma el funsiona ancora, e po’ el xe quelo che avevo in botega e che me ga fato ciapar tanti schei.
Adesso par dopararlo me toca spetar che queli che stà sora de mi i vada via par no spussolentarli col parfumo, e me meto su la piera del balcon a rostirme el me bravo çievolame!
Alora co la carbonella la ze impissada e la graela a creme larghete - ma no tanto - la xe pronta, se ghe mete sora i çievoli.

NO SE GA’ DA LAVARLI E NO SE GA’ DA SCAMARLI!!!!!

Se i li mete cussì: come che i li stà. Co tuto el so pien e co tute le so s-ciame. Le s-ciame i le perde cusinandose, e cussì el çievolo no ciapa i disegni de la graela e nol se brusa.
Pena che el xe coto da �na parte (el se staca da solo alsandolo con ‘na ongia), se lo volta e se ghe mete sora un spissego de sal. Col xe coto anca da stantra parte, se ghe mete anca là un spissego de sal.
A parte mi go parecia ‘na scueleta co dentro ajo e parsemolo tritai, ojo sal e pavare: gnente limon, e ghe lo meto sora el pesse.

Ma no la xe finìa!

A caxa se anca pol scominisar a magnarlo, ma mi in bottega - co lo servivo in tola - jera là che me ciapavo un fanco!
Alora in t’un piato de portada ghe metevo un o do �ievoli, secondo la misura. A parte tegnivo deo fete de polenta brustolada bela calda e coverta co un tovajol.
Me ricordo che ghe jera l’ avocato Bragadin e el prof. Zagnoni che i voeva che prima de tuto ghe servisse al boton del çievolo…se el cliente no lo voleva: mejo par mi, parch� me lo metavo da parte e me lo cucavo…

Alora ghe spinavo ben ben el çievolo (che a calchedun ghe disevo che el jera branzin… cussì che ciavavo mejo i schei…) e ghe lo puzavo sora la polenta brustolada, col el scujer e co el piron ghe struccavo ben ben la testa al pesse, ghe metavo sora un limon strucà, pevare sal e ojo de oliva.

Missiavo ben ben tuto quanto: testa spini, e la salsa, sbandavo el piato e el tocio che colava zoso lo rancuravo col scujer e lo metavo sora el pesse, nantra strucada de testa e anca chel tocio sora el pesse. Ogni tanto ghe fassevo el scherso de metarghe davanti i spini e portarme via el pesse, ma i me ciamava sempre indr�o par dirme che me sbagliavo…
Lori rideva, i jera contenti, i magnava ben, i pagava mejo e i me lassava de le bele mancie. E dopo me magnavo el boton che loro no aveva vossudo

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