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Grilled black sea bass and blackfish accompanied by saffron rice and asparagus. (Credit: John Ross)

JOHN ROSS PHOTOGrilled black sea bass and blackfish accompanied by saffron rice and asparagus.

“Over the years we have spent much time and effort to make seafood more convenient, easier to cook and easier to eat,” North Fork chef John Ross writes in his column this week.

But, Ross tells us, if you are really serious about freshness in fish, you either catch it yourself or buy the just-caught whole fish at your local fish market.

This week Ross shows us how to prepare a whole fish.

Pick up a copy of this week’s edition of The Suffolk Times for his Grilled NoFo Bouillabaisse recipe.

Grilled Whole Fish

Purchase a whole blackfish, black sea bass or striped bass. Gut it out, remove the scales and rinse under cold water. Dry the fish with paper towels and make deep slits diagonally along the length of the fish, about 2 inches apart.

Place a thin slice of lemon, a piece of sliced garlic and a few rosemary leaves in each slit. Sprinkle coarse sea salt and pepper over the fish and in the cavity. Place slices of lemon, garlic and rosemary leaves in the cavity. Tie the fish with butcher’s twine into a neat, compact bundle to help hold it together while it cooks.

Heat a char-grill to about 400 degrees and brush the hot grid with vegetable oil just before cooking the fish. Spray the fish with no-stick and place it on the grill. Close the lid and let it cook for 10 minutes before turning.

Carefully cut under the fish with two thin spatulas and turn it over. Move it to a little cooler spot on the grill, lower the lid and let it cook for about 20 minutes, or until the flesh comes away from the bone easily.

Place the cooked fish on a platter with saffron rice and freshly cooked green vegetables along with a garnish of lemon and parsley. It will be a little messy and awkward to serve, but it will also be full of flavor.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. He can be reached at [email protected].