Robert Hezmalhalch has left the search for the Missing Link to anthropologists, while he has concentrated on finding the Missing Ingredient--that little something that would bring to absolute perfection his already polished skills as a master of barbecued fish.
Six months ago, while on a fishing trip to Mexico, he found it: a homemade marinade that not only adds exquisite flavor to the catch, but leaves it with a glaze that makes it look as if it has been lifted off the cover of Gourmet magazine.
It was with some reluctance that the 49-year-old San Juan Capistrano resident agreed to share the recipe with Guys & Galleys, so he would feel better if we all promise to keep it in an unmarked brown envelope.
Hezmalhalch, known as "Hez" to his friends and associates, is senior vice president of Hon Development Co., headquartered in Laguna Hills. Born in Santa Ana and raised in Fullerton, he has fished just about every stream and lake in the state, along with the coastal waters of California, Mexico and Alaska.
"Being near the water is very important to me, and there's no better way to accomplish that than fishing," he says.
Cooking the catch, he says, while not "as much fun, is the payoff."
He also says that most people don't know how to properly barbecue fish, that they throw the cold fish on a hot grill and are surprised that the skin sticks to the metal. "They also put the fish on when the coals are too hot, so they wind up with either fish that's raw in the middle or so terribly overdone that it's like eating leather."
The secret, he says, is to place a sheet of aluminum foil on the grill for preheating the fish. "Lay the fish on top of the foil about a minute a side, then slide it onto the grill.
"You will be amazed. Because both the fish and the grill are hot, the fish doesn't stick. And, especially with the marinade, it comes off easily and has that wonderful brown glaze on it."
He also only uses the marinade on meatier fish, such as halibut or shark, and recommends 1-to 1 1/2-inch steaks for the process.
The fish should be marinated in the refrigerator for four to six hours, turning occasionally, he says, before cooking.
Hezmalhalch's wife, Bernice, also enjoys cooking, but "she lets me do all the barbecuing," he says.
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
Mix together, pour over fish and marinate in refrigerator four to six hours.
Each week, Orange County Life will feature a man who enjoys cooking and a favorite recipe. Tell us about your candidate. Write to Guys & Galleys, Orange County Life, L.A. Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.