Crispy Grouper Collars

William Dissen

The Market Place Restaurant & Lounge, Asheville, NC; Billy D's Fried Chicken, Asheboro, NC; and Haymaker, Charlotte, NC

While collars are great broiled or grilled, their meaty texture also holds up exceptionally well to frying, as in this recipe for tempura-fried collars with notes of cool, spicy, and sweet. William Dissen describes how to remove collars if butchering at home, but if you’re short on time, do your local fishmonger a favor by buying an item that usually goes to waste.


Sweet Chile Sauce:

  • 3/4 cup wildflower honey
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon garlic–chile sauce (such as sambal olek)
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (1/4-inch) piece ginger, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemongrass, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon mint, finely chopped
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Green Garlic Aïoli:

  • 1 head green garlic (or 3 cloves garlic)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Kohlrabi–Fresno Chile Slaw:

  • 1 kohlrabi, peeled and julienned
  • 1/2 cup julienned fennel
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup julienned red onion
  • 1/4 cup julienned red bell pepper
  • 1 Fresno chile pepper, cut into rings
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chiffonade
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup soda water
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 whole grouper, scaled and gutted (or 2 collars)
  • 6 cups vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 tablespoon ground Aleppo pepper


Make chile sauce: in a bowl, mix all ingredients until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate.

Make aïoli: bring a pot of water to a simmer and blanch garlic until tender, about 4 minutes. Shock in a bowl of ice water. Drain and transfer to a blender. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute. You should end up with about ¼ cup. Whisk mayonnaise, garlic puree, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate.

Make slaw: place all ingredients into a bowl and toss. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate. (This can be done up to 1 hour before serving.)

Make tempura batter: in a large bowl, combine flour and cornstarch and whisk in soda water—the batter should be thin. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate.

If using whole fish, butcher the grouper by removing the fillets from the head and spine. Reserve the grouper fillets for another recipe. Remove the collars from the neck and head of the fish by inserting a knife behind the gills and carefully filleting the neck away from the head of the fish, removing the tender underside of the neck. After removing the neck (or collar), use your knife to remove any pin bones. The pectoral fin of the grouper will still remain intact along the exterior of the collar. The collars are now ready to be cooked.

In a Dutch oven, heat oil to 350°F. Dip collars into batter and gently tap against the side of the bowl to remove excess batter. Place collars into the oil and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the batter is set and golden and fish is cooked through. Remove collars from fryer and drain on a paper towel–lined plate to remove any excess oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a large round circle of the green garlic aïoli on 4 plates. Place a grouper collar and 1/4 of the kohlrabi slaw on each plate.

Sprinkle with dried Aleppo pepper around the plate, dollop sweet chile sauce on the side, and serve immediately.


From Waste Not: How to Get the Most from Your Food by The James Beard Foundation/Rizzoli Publishing.


4 servings

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Fish Grouper