You many be wondering why not just fillet the fish? Why bother leaving the fish whole? Just to see the reaction of your dinner guests when their fish is staring back at them? Actually, whole fish is very popular in many cultures. I enjoyed a whole fish for the first time at an oceanside restaurant on my vacation to St. Martin earlier this year. Like most foods cooked on the bone, fish that is cooked whole is more flavorful and it helps prevent the fish from drying out during cooking, a common problem problem with fish in my kitchen.
Beautiful shrimp from Kate's Seafood
Similar to the Slash & Burn Grouper, I had to make seafood stock for the sauce. I peeled the shrimp and tossed the shells into a sauce pan (I froze the shrimp to use another time) with some onion, ginger, carrot, bay leaf, coriander, salt, and water. I let it lightly simmer for a couple hours before straining out the solids. I was left with a delicious stock for the dish and plenty leftover for the freezer.
The star of the show, whole Red Snapper
Kate's Fish, located in the Westside Market, is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, seafood sources in the Cleveland area. I went to the market early one Saturday morning and they only had small red snapper (less than 1 pound each). This actually worked out perfectly because I was serving dinner for 6 people, none of which had ever eaten whole fish before. These little guys provided everyone with the perfect introduction to eating whole fish.
Preparing the fish to be marinated
Once I got the fish home I rinsed them off and prepared them to be marinated by making 3-4 slices on each side of the fish, placed them in a nonreactive dish, and salted them.
Red Snapper taking a bath in a lemon-oregano marinade
Next, I whisked together the juice from a couple lemons with some olive oil and oregano. I poured this mixture over the fish and let them marinade for a little while (~30 minutes). Don't marinade the fish too long because the citrus actually cooks the fish a little bit (like ceviche).
While the fish was marinading I went outside to light my Weber charcoal grill, unfortuantely I picked one of the worst days of Spring to make this dish. It was about 38 degrees with a light rain and A LOT of wind, but eventually the fire started.
Wrapped in grape leaves & ready to go on the grill
Next, I wrapped each fish in a few grape leaves until they were covered. I had never worked with grape leaves before and wasn't sure where to find them so I called the Avon Heinen's and they carried them (look near the olives). Michael writes that he loves the combination of the brininess of the grape leaves with the oceany background of the fish. The grape leaves also help keep the fish moist & protect it from charring.
Unfortunately this picture doesn't capture the cold rain I am standing in
You want the fire to be medium hot and be sure to brush some olive oil on the grape leaves to help prevent them from burning. The fish will take about 4 minutes per side.
All done! The eyes look a little scary after marinading & grilling. My brother in-law says they taste just fine though.
Garlic, lemon, and fresh seafood stock
While the fish was cooking, I brought the lemon juice, lemons, stock, and garlic to a simmer for the avgolemono.
I had never heard of avgolemono. I was afraid the lemon sauce would be lemon overdose like in Lizzie's Chicken, but it really brightened up the dish and was a nice contrast to the grape leaves. Wikipedia describes avgolemono as a Greek soup made with egg and lemon juice mixed with broth, heated until they thicken but before they boil and curdle. It translates to egg-lemon in English and is common in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Is he staring at me?
As you can tell by the Easter bunnies on the table cloth in the picture, this dish was served around Easter.We couldn't help but sing, "Give me back that filet of fish, give me that fish..." as the snapper was staring back at us on our plates. I really enjoyed the flavor of the fish and the sauce was really good, however it was not fun constantly having to pull bones out of my mouth in between each bite. I was surprised that our dinner guests all seemed to enjoy the meal, although I am sure they could have done without all the bones too. I think if Kate's Fish would have had larger red snapper, the bones would not have been as big of an issue. Make sure to eat the cheek meat at the base of the head. It is the tastiest, juiciest part!
I won't be in a hurry to make this dish again, but it did increase my confidence when it comes to making fish. I hope to grill a lot more fish throughout the summer!
I will provide the approximate cost for each recipe in the book, as well as the source of the products used.
It cost about $44.50 to make Grilled Red Snapper with Grape Leaves and Avgolemono for 6 people.
6 Small Red Snapper - $36 (Kate's Fish)
Lemons - $1 (Westside Market)
Olive oil - $2.50 (The Olive Tap)
Grape leaves - $2 (Heinen's)
Misc (fresh oregano, garlic, eggs) - $1