Roasting red snapper is one of the simplest cooking methods for making a delicious and nutritious meal in little time. Lay the stuffed fish on baking or parchment paper on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan, and into the oven it goes. Clean-up? After serving, wrap up the paper and discard.
Keep flavors simple. The heady combination of fennel, bay leaf, and garlic enhances fresh fish. Add some zing with chili peppers and fresh citrus. Have you tasted sweet lime? Looking like a large yellow lemon, it is sweet rather than tart, and its fragrance envelopes fish with enticing perfume. (Meyer lemon makes a good substitute.)
* Always freshen seafood by pouring some white vermouth inside and outside. Amazing…
* When grilling meat in Argentina, a flavored brine called Salmuera is used. I use it for roasting, too. It bastes the fish and gives it a slightly salty, garlicky taste.
* Try Spanish Romesco Sauce. Make in advance and store in your refrigerator up to 10 days. It is an ideal accompaniment for roasted fish, and tastes great with potatoes.
* Plan on 1 pound (454 g) raw weight per person. Small-size red snapper weighing just 1 pound (454 g) is not always easy to find, but usually medium-size weight of about 2 pounds (907 g) is readily available. Roast whole fish at high heat for the entire time.
4 servings. Roasting time is 20 to 25 minutes per pound or half kilo.
4 pounds whole fresh red snapper, cleaned and gutted (purchase two red snappers weighing about 2 pounds or 907 g each)
Cold running water
Dry white vermouth
Salmuera, optional: Click for the recipe
Sea salt to taste if not using Salmuera
Stuffing for Cavity:
Wild fennel or cultivated fennel bulb fronds
Whole bay leaves
Whole garlic cloves
Whole fresh or dried chili peppers
Citrus slices: Sweet lime, Meyer lemon, lemon, or Navel orange
Baking or parchment paper
Extra-virgin olive oil
Large shallow baking sheet or roasting pan
Romesco Sauce: Click for the recipe
1. Prepare the whole red snapper as follows: Under cold running water, rinse very well. If needed, pour white vermouth inside the cavity and drain, then pour more over the entire fish to freshen. Drain well until almost dry.
Salmuera: If using the salmuera, pour it over the fish and inside its cavity. Drain well until almost dry.
Cavity: If not using salmuera, sprinkle with sea salt. Insert the fennel fronds, bay leaves, garlic cloves, and peppers into the cavity then close it.
Allow the fish to warm up for about 30 minutes before roasting to release the chill. Very lightly drizzle olive oil over the fish; if not the entire body, then rub gently over its face, fins, and tail so it looks plump and pretty for its presentation!
Stuffed fresh red snapper on sweet lime slices, with a bottle of Salmuera for basting.
2. Preheat oven to 400 F/200 C/Gas Mark 6. Place baking or parchment paper on top of the baking sheet or inside the roasting pan. Brush a small amount of olive oil over the paper where the fish will lay. The paper makes clean-up a snap and the fish does not stick to the oiled paper, making transfer to a serving platter easy.
Citrus: Reserve one small slice to place on top of the fish’s eye either before and/or after roasting. Arrange the remaining citrus slices over the brushed-on olive oil, then place the whole fish on top of the citrus. This layering flavors the fish and elevates it slightly so it is away from the metal surface, and any juice that gathers in the bottom. Place the reserved small slice on top of the fish’s eye if using now.
Roasting: Sprinkle sea salt over the snapper. Place it in the middle of the preheated oven. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes per pound. No need to even try to turn the fish over, just rotate the sheet or pan halfway through for even cooking. When almost finished, press the fish in its thickest part, it should be soft. If there are any small dorsal fins attached, they should wiggle and could be pulled off. OR Into the thickest part of the fish, insert a long thin-tined fork and twist. It should twist easily and show the white flesh. Remove from the oven and plate. Garnish the filets with Romesco Sauce and steamed or boiled baby potatoes.