Roasted Whole (Red) Vermillion Snapper, with Garlic… DELISH!


Intimidated by those Beautiful, Whole Fish behind the Seafood Counter?

Well, don’t be! Cooking a whole fish is no more difficult than cooking fish fillets or steaks – all you need is a baking dish and some tin foil. In many ways, cooking a whole fish is actually easier than the effort it takes to grill, pan-fry or broil fish.

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No worries… I was once like you! I used to stand in front of the fish counter, looking at all the options but never choosing the whole fish – worried that it would be way too much work. I often thought back to one of my vacations (to Zihuatanejo, Mexico) – where I had the most amazing, whole, pan-fried garlic red snapper. I desperately wanted to reproduce the recipe, but knew that cooking a whole, butterflied fish would probably take more effort and a much larger fry pan than I was willing to invest in.

So, when I was perusing the Whole Foods fish counter a few weeks ago and saw these beautiful, whole, Vermillion Snappers staring back at me, I just couldn’t resist the temptation any longer. I bought the whole fish. I asked the fish monger to clean it and remove the scales for me, to which he happily obliged. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but I was determined to cook it, keep it easy and make it taste good. Luckily, this was much easier than I had ever anticipated.

I did a quick web search when I got home and decided on an Epicurious.com recipe for Baked Whole Red Snapper with Garlic. It looked simple and sounded delicious, so I clicked my “save to Plummelo” bookmark and viola – I had myself a new recipe in my Plummelo recipe box!

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Cooking a whole fish in foil is actually quite simple. Make sure you piece of foil is large enough to lay the fish on and then to complete envelope it – almost like a parchment packet. Spread a little olive oil on the skin to prevent it from sticking (optional), season with salt and pepper, stuff the cavity of the fish with fresh herbs, lemon slices and butter and then add your liquid (to encourage steaming) – In this case, lemon juice. In 45 minutes you have an amazing, juicy, flavorful meal that would pair well with just about any vegetable or starch!

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A few final things to keep in mind…

  1. You can change up the ing very easily, adding lemon juice, wine, vegetables, sauces and other seasonings. For example, I found this recipe for Baked Whole Fish in Garlic-Chili Sauce, a Thai dish that sounds amazing and actually uses a banana leaf, rather than foil – and can be baked in the oven or thrown on the grill (as can my recipe). You can find banana leaves at many specialty markets, including Whole Foods.
  2. Do not cook the fish for over an hour, or you will wind up with a very dry, overcooked meal.
  3. Be very careful when opening the foil – I recommend using a fork or tongs, rather than your hands. The steam that comes out will be very hot!
  4. Always make sure you fish is fresh. It should have no odor whatsoever!
  5. Do not keep cooked fish for more than 3 days. You can freeze this dish, but once thawed… that’s it. You need to eat it!

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*A version of this blog post will appear on www.plummelo.com later this week!

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