Poisson Gros Sel or Coarse Salt Fish is a very popular dish in Haiti. As it is a wonderful way to prepare fish, it is also one of the unique ways to appreciate the taste of fresh fish. The dish is traditionally prepared with coarse sea salt (gros sel found in Haiti) and a mixture of fresh herbs.
Over the years and because of the scarcity of certain products, people have learned to substitute and replace. It is said that the gros sel found in Haiti is very similar to regular sea salt. But in my opinion, in terms of flavor, the taste is similar to Fleur de Sel which is “is a hand-harvested sea salt collected by workers who scrape only the top layer of salt before it sinks to the bottom of large salt pans.” (Wikipedia, 2014)
Poisson Gros Sel made with Fleur de Sel is more flavorful than the regular sea salt in my opinion. Of course, as there are many brands of sea salts, there are also many brands of fleur de sel. The tastier the salt the more expensive it is. Finding the right salt is only a matter of choice. Only taste is important and finding the right one is not only a monetary choice but a palette choice as well. Choose wisely!
Poisson Gross Sel is made with any meaty fish that will absorb the fresh spices. Such variety may be snapper, barracuda, or kingfish. But any other similar type will work as well and as long as the fish as a lot of flesh and tiny bones. My preferred choice is snapper (pink or blue) and barracuda. The dish can also be prepared with swordfish, and again it is by choice. This one is not my personal favorite because I find the texture to be firmer than other types of fish.
The dish is prepared with fresh spices such as scallion, onion, garlic, thyme, parsley, and scotch bonnet pepper or habanero pepper. Additionally, a mixture of salted seasoning salt is added. Many add chicken bouillon. My prepared choice is a good brand of fish seasoning for more flavoring.
I will sometimes bypass the fish seasoning if I am preparing the fish with Fleur de Sel because of the bold flavors released by the salt. The fish is marinated for a long time and slowly cooked to preserve texture. The sauce is separately made with the fish marinate and poured over the fish as the final step. A spicy and flavorful way to cook fresh fish!
Poisson Gros Sel or Coarse Salt Fish
- 1 Whole fish - about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds or fish filets or 2 small fish
- 2 Lime - reserve the juice of 1 lime
- 1 Large white onion - sliced reserve 1/4 or the onion for the sauce
- 2 Scallions - roughly chopped
- 3 Garlic cloves - minced
- 2 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
- 2 Whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon of salt sea salt or fleur de del
- 2 teaspoons of fish bouillon optional if not using, increase the amount of salt
- 1/2 Tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1/4 Teaspoon hot pepper - habanero
- 1/2 Teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup of sweet red pepper
- 1/2 cup Shallots - sliced
- 1 - 2 Tablespoon olive oil
- Remove any additional scales from fish. Clean fish with lime. Gently rinse with cold water, pat dry and put aside in a shallow container. Score fish diagonally 2 - 3 times on both sides if using a whole fish, once for a smaller fish and no scoring for fillets. In a blender or food processor, add all spices with the exception of the shallots and sweet pepper. Add lemon juice. Blend until it forms a paste. Pour marinade over fish, rub paste all over by making sure that fish is well coated. Cover and place in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours or overnight.
- Remove fish from refrigerator and let at room temperature. Heat oil on low setting in a large heavy pan big enough to hold whole fish. Cut fish in half if necessary.
- Remove fish from marinate and slowly add to pan. Increase heat slightly and let cook 5 - 7 minutes per sides depending on thickness. Transfer fish to a plate.
- In same pan, add additional oil if necessary, add marinade and let cook down for about 7 to 10 minutes on low heat. Add onion, shallots and sweet pepper. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of hot water depending on the amount of sauce you want. Season with salt and pepper and a few drops of lime of lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Once sauce starts to thickens, return fish to pan and let cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve fish immediately with a side or of root vegetables or rice or both.