Spring Fling

Chef Michael Scelfo shares his secrets for the ultimate al fresco dinner party.


Scelfo uses black bass here, but this recipe will work with any whole fish—as long as it has a firm flesh that will stand up to the grill. Your fishmonger can remove the scales, guts, and gills—and you can ask to have the fins clipped, too.

michael scelfo dinner party recipe

Whole black bass with spicy lime sauce and green-curry aioli.

The Black Bass

1 (2 1/2 lb.) whole black bass, scaled, gutted, and gills removed 

Kosher salt

Extra-virgin olive oil

8 lime slices

2 fresh bay leaves

2 oz. white wine (any kind you’d drink)

4 cloves of garlic, smashed

Preheat grill to high. Make three diagonal slices about a half-inch deep on each side of the fish. Salt the fish and coat it generously with olive oil. Season the inside of the fish with salt and olive oil. Place lime slices and garlic inside the cavity. Line a sheet tray with aluminum foil, and lay the fish on top. Fold the aluminum foil up around the sides of the fish to create a sort of baking dish. Add a splash of the white wine and place on the preheated grill. Cook with the lid down until the fish is just cooked through (about 30 to 35 minutes). Remove from the grill and present with the aioli and lime sauce on the side.

Green-Curry Aioli

Juice and zest of one lime

1 medium clove of garlic, minced

1/2 to 1 tsp. green-curry paste (such as the Mae Ploy brand)

1/2 c. coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 egg yolk

1/3 c. canola or another mild-flavored oil

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the lime juice, lime zest, garlic, curry paste, cilantro, salt, and egg yolk, and mix until smooth and uniform. With the motor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. Process until smooth and thickened. Taste, and adjust curry paste and salt as necessary. Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least one hour, and up to two days, before serving.

Spicy Lime Sauce

10 limes, segments removed and transferred to a bowl

1 tbsp. red-pepper flakes

3 tbsp. good-quality extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl, and set aside.

michael scelfo dinner party recipe

Grilled whole fish is an elegant main course that’s deceptively easy to prepare.