I roasted up a a whole red snapper for dinner last night. For me, this dish evokes long leisurely meals in a warm Mediterranean beach town somewhere. Fancy restaurants in New York would charge 50 bucks or more for a dish like this, but you can do it a home for a fraction of the price. Here is how to recreate the experience in your own kitchen:
Ingredients (serves 2):
- One whole wild-caught red snapper (or other firm white-fleshed fish), scaled and gutted
- One big shallot (or 2-3 small shallots, or half a small onion), thinly sliced
- Four or five cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- One small carrot, cut in half lengthwise, and then sliced on a bias into thin strip
- One cup or so of thinly-sliced fennel, include parts of the bulb as well as the leafy fronds at the top of the fennel
- One teaspoon of whole coriander seeds, lightly crushed with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (but not totally pulverized)
- One small dried chili pepper, seeded and crumbled into small pieces
- A splash of dry white wine (Last night, I used some cava, which I also drank with dinner. Some rosé or a white vermouth would also work well here)
- One lemon – thinly slice up 1 half of the lemon into half-moons; reserve the rest of the lemon for squeezing on the finished fish
- Extra-virgin olive oil; salt & pepper to taste
- A handful of torn-up fresh coriander (cilantro) for garnish
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees F (260 C).
- Combine ingredients 2-9 above in a mixing bowl. Mix in a splash of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Scrape off any remaining scales on the fish. Rinse off the fish in cold water and pat dry with some paper towels. Use a knife to score the fish every 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) or so on both sides as shown in the photos.
- Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Place the fish on the foil. Rub the fish with some olive oil and season inside and out with salt and pepper.
- Stuff the vegetable mixture from Step 2 into the cavity of the fish. Place the remaining mixture around the fish on the foil.
- Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until just barely cooked through.
- Serve with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, some more extra virgin olive oil and cilantro leaves as garnish.
I had some leftover ratatouille as a side dish. A simple Mediterranean side salad and/or some boiled potatoes would work great as well. As for wine, I had some Cava (sparkling Spanish wine), but a Portuguese vinho verde or some dry white or rosé would work too.