When my daughter showed up this weekend after her trip to Costco with a whole snapper my face dropped. We had decided I was not to come so we could keep the bill low. Famous last words. All I can say is she really went to town.
I had seen these small snappers the previous week when I went to buy a few staples and I have to admit they looked beautiful. The other added attraction was their size. 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds. Now, that can be a plus or a negative. When I buy whole fish I try to avoid smaller ones as I know I will be paying about a third of the price for the head and the tail. Unless you are going to make broth for a future bouillabaisse or paella, that is not economical. On the plus side, with a fish this size, you will have enough for four people or, if there is only two of you, cold leftovers with an interesting mayonnaise on top of field greens.
Skip to the fish. I have one rule of thumb when it comes to buying fish. If I can smell it, it's a no go. This time, I'm happy to say, the fish did not smell. Nowadays fish such as these are immediately frozen after they are caught so plan to cook when you buy it and whatever you do, do not refreeze.
So, I decided to make it whole, just like my grandmother used to make it, with a few twists here and there. Now I am not going to give you exact measurements for everything. This way, you can apply the recipe to any size snapper you buy.
The potatoes that accompany the snapper are probably the best you will ever have. Here their purpose is twofold. One keeping the fish from sticking to the bottom. Two, send you into ecstatic convulsions! They roast under the fish and get all the flavors from it.
By the way, if you are planting an herb garden, do get some lemon balm. You will be using it all summer. If you don't have some on hand, just add extra lemon or peel.
|Fishing for snapper in Cuba today|
June and July is the time for snappers, at least in the Caribbean. I know, I used to fish for them off my father's boat in Cuba as a young girl. Mother and I were quite the fishermen while my father socialized with his friends on the radio. We would come home with 40 or 50 snappers a night during the time they came to spawn off the coast of Varadero where we had a summer house. It was like a city both above the water and below.
We tried to get to the site by dusk so we could pick out a good spot, our "secret" spot. Then drinks and sandwiches and the waiting began. Sometimes the madness would not start until one or two o clock in the morning. But once the full moon came out, watch out...you couldn't bring them in fast enough. Big ones too, 20 to 30 lbs. And do you know what we used for bait?? Squid and lobster! Goes to show you where the priorities were in those days.
There is nothing in the world like eating a freshly caught snapper. I can still close my eyes and remember the times. But if you can't, and I can't anymore, this is not a bad way to go.
1 2 1/2 pound whole snapper, cleaned , scales removed, head and tail on
1 large baking potato
1/2 onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic mashed
1 lemon, halved
fresh lemon balm
1/4 tsp. Pimenton (Spanish paprika)
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 lemon cut in wedges to accompany
You will need a roasting pan
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Take a meat cleaver and remove the head and tail. Save to make broth.
Make a cut around the belly and open up. My daughter misunderstood and cut the whole top off! It was even better.
Squeeze 1/2 of the lemon and sprinkle some pimenton in the inside of the fish. Also add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the sliced onion, and crushed garlic.