Flaky, white, juicy fish! YUM! I fell in love with Red Snapper on a trip to Belize about a decade ago. It has rapidly become my favorite fish to prepare at home. I love to get a nice fresh fish from our local fish monger and cook him within 24 hours. It never tastes a good as it does with a Caribbean breeze blowing my hair, but c’est la vie. This is one of those fish that don’t taste overly fishy. Why is it that we never complain about chicken tasting overly chickeny or beef being overly cowy? I don’t know what the difference is, but certain fish are just too much for me. This one is consistently mild yet flavorful.
When you select a fresh fish, you have to use your senses to make sure you are getting a quality product. You want a fish that is heavy for its appearance. You want to smell the fish to make sure there are no overly pungent smells as if the fish is about to turn – trust me, you’ll know. It will smell like fish, of course, but you want a mild and fresh smell – not unpleasant – also not perfume. Finally, I always check the eyes. When I buy fresh fish, I make sure the eyes still look plump, shiny and are not cloudy at all – this is how you tell that the fish has been freshly caught and kept cold. The cloudier the eyes, the older he is.
To roast a whole, fresh fish, with head on, is much easier than you think. Once the fish is cleaned, de scaled, and trimmed, it is ready to prepare. I love to cook with fresh herbs, and my favorite for fish are oregano, marjoram and thyme. For this recipe, I am only using marjoram and oregano in the fish and the thyme will be added to the tomato puree that will top our dish just before serving. I thinly sliced one lemon, thinly sliced 4 cloves of garlic, and placed the fresh herbs, then half the lemon and garlic inside the fish.
The remainder go under the fish so that it seasons the outer portions while it is cooking. I finished it off with a liberal sprinkling of Himalayan pink salt and a liberal drizzle of olive oil. Our little guest of honor is all dressed for dinner. Roast him for about 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the meat is white and flaky at the thickest part.
To finish this little guy off, I have roasted some cherry tomatoes and zucchini with olive oil, garlic and a sprinkle of salt. Once the tomato skins start to sizzle and burst, and the zucchini slices begin to crisp at the edges, you know they are close to done. You want the vegies cooked thoroughly but not soft and mushy. I usually roast the vegies while the fish is roasting – moving the vegies from the bottom rack to the top for 10 extra minutes after I take the fish out. Drain the excess liquid from your dish and transfer the vegies directly to a blender. I don’t add any additional ingredients at this point, but you could add fresh basil or parsley if you are serving pasta with the fish to complement the pasta. Puree until it is the consistency you want and transfer to a serving dish or holding dish.
To serve, I remove the whole fish and place on a platter – generally on a bed or arugula or spinach. Transfer the lemon slices from under the snapper first, then the snapper. I to leave the herbs and lemon in, but it is only for aesthetics – scrap them if you don’t want them there. The fish is portioned and the puree is added after the fish is served.
To finish out this meal I served with a lovely watermelon and feta salad this is my Spring and Summer go to. I just can’t get enough of it! The salad is very simple. Select your green of choice – I like the peppery bite of arugula right now. On top of the arugula, add diced watermelon, feta cheese and sliced roasted almonds if you like. My dressing is just red wine salad vinegar – no oil. Divine!
I also served a broccoli rice for my carb loving children. The rice is for them, the broccoli is to make me feel better about it. 😊 Hopefully they will not resist too much. I virtually minced the broccoli so that they had to eat the broccoli bits to get to the rice as well. Then in my rice cooker, I added my rice, 2 and ½ cups of chicken stock, and the broccoli. Check on it occasionally and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick. In approximately 20 minutes, your broccoli and rice side is done.
This is a simple dinner that took about 20 minutes of prep time for all three dishes, then only took about another 45 minutes for everything to cook. It looks like you slaved all day and tastes like you spent hours in the kitchen. Buen provecho!