Delicious and rustic
Today I’m sharing one of my favourite Portuguese fish dishes–Sea Bream. It’s called Sargo in Portuguese. I’m not sure if this is exactly the same fish I used to eat while living in the Azores, but it looks and tastes a lot like it, so I’m going with it. It’s definitely from the same family.
Until this week, I had never cooked sea bream or sargo. I ate plenty of it when I was younger. My mom cooked it beautifully. I didn’t just eat it at home. I’d even order it occasionally when we’d go to a Portuguese restaurant.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t eaten it in a long while. Until now, that is.
Oh… that’s what it is!
Although I lived oceanside in the Azores for 8 years, I never fished seriously. I could recognize and name some fish I’d see the locals catching, but definitely not all. I was much better at recognizing fish on my plate 🙂
Finding this fish was a bit of a fluke. This week, I visited my local fish monger, Off the Hook, and told them I was in the mood to fire up our Broil King BBQ to grill some whole fish.
They pointed out a few great looking options, and I settled on sea bream. When I got home I translated sea bream on Google and was pleasantly surprised to see the word “Sargo” appear. I was suddenly flooded with memories of Pico–my dad returning home with his catch, and my mom cooking up the fish. So many of my memories relate to food.
Being from a small fishing town in the Azores, it was very common for my dad to go fishing and bring back Sargo. You’ve heard of farm to fork. Well, this was ocean to plate. Fish was always fresh. We normally ate the day’s catch the same day it was caught. It was also common to share some of the catch with family and friends. And if it was a big catch, we’d even freeze some.
Shopping local feels good
The show Cheers comes to mind when I drive around our community running errands. The show’s theme song includes the line… “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name”.
Our community is large enough that I don’t even come close to knowing everybody, but it does feel great to walk into the barbershop, butcher and fish monger and be greeted with a “hey Nelson!”.
I always have such a great experience at my butcher and fish monger. In addition to having lots of great products and being super clean (the fish monger doesn’t even have a strong fish smell), they also spend time getting to know their customers, and even offer cooking advice.
Where food comes from…
One thing that I find about many North Americans, myself included, is that we’ve lost the connection between the food on our plates and where it comes from.
A couple of years ago, we hosted cousins from Portugal, and they made a comment that really opened my eyes. We swung by one of our local grocery stores to pickup something for dinner, and they asked me where all the whole fish was. They were surprised to see the fish was already packaged as fillets. It got me thinking about how I had become accustomed to this and no longer thought about the origins of the food on my plate. It really stuck with me.
My hope is that the more I cook at home from scratch, and the more we shop where real raw food has fewer levels of separation from its origin, and the more we talk about where our food comes from; the more our boys will understand. They’ll understand that our meats, fish, vegetables, and more, all originate from the land and sea; not plastic-wrapped styrofoam trays and factory-packed boxes stocked in freezers.
Keeping it simple
My guess is that if you’re reading our post and recipe, you probably like to cook. If you don’t already do so, I encourage you to try using fresh ingredients, even if it’s a little outside your comfort zone.
Try cooking a whole chicken or fish. It’s a lot easier than you might think and it’s often less expensive because there’s less processing labour involved than there is in pre-packaged foods.
My sea bream is prepared in a very simple way. You could obviously add fresh herbs and extra spices to enhance the flavour, but this is how my mom prepares it (minus the black pepper) and that’s what I wanted to share with you. Add boiled potatoes drizzled with oil and vinegar, and a simple garden salad, and you’ve got a very delicious, simple, and traditional dish ready in no time.
Sometimes simple is best.
Give this recipe a try. Sea bream isn’t very expensive and it can be ready to eat in less than 30 minutes, which makes it perfect for any day of the week. And it tastes amazing!
Cook from scratch and eat well, friends!
There’s a new photographer in town
We usually finish our blog stories by inviting our readers to eat well. Today, I want to end the story by giving our older son, Michael, a shoutout because he took today’s food photos, and Liz and I are absolutely thrilled with the results.
Michael has taken a huge interest in multimedia and has already completed some projects for friends and clients.
He’s been working hard on growing his portfolio and skills in photography, videography and audio production. Check out some of his work at Cardoso Multimedia.
Until next time… thank you so much for visiting our food blog.
Easy sea bream on the grill (sargo)
- 2 sea bream fish, scales, fins, and guts removed (about 2 1/2 lbs total)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 lemons, cut in half
- Start up the grill and heat it to around 500 ºF.
- While the grill heats up, place both fish on a baking sheet. Slather both fish with the vegetable oil on both sides.
- Sprinkle the salt and pepper evenly over both sides of the fish.
- Once the grill is hot, lower the burner under where you’ll placing the fish. Leave the other burners at the same temperature.
- Place both fish next to each other on the grill, just above the burner that you lowered.
- Place the lemons cut-side down on the grill beside the fish.
- Close the lid and let the fish grill for 10 minutes. Make sure not to check too often, as this will bring down the temperature.
- After 10 minutes, open the lid and carefully flip both fish over. I use a spatula and tongs to reduce the chances of breaking the skin. The vegetable oil should keep it from sticking to the grill.
- Close the lid and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.
- Open the lid and transfer both fish to a large serving dish.
- Use the tongs to pickup the lemon halves and squeeze (using the tongs) them over both fish.
- Serve the fish with your favourite sides. In Portugal, grilled fish is often served with salad and boiled potatoes… and homemade red wine of course 🙂
Roslia santamaria says
This looks super tasty!! I can’t wait to give it a try! It’s all delicious ingredients 🙂
Nelson Cardoso says
Thanks so much. Let us know how it goes. Whole fish scares many people, but it’s actually very easy and so delicious. Happy cooking!