Unknowingly continuing with our summer of seafood, for this week’s Daily Dinner we roasted a whole fish.
The idea of bringing an entire slimy, scaly fish into the kitchen seems daunting for a home cook, much less one with a kitchen the size of ours, but I couldn’t have been happier yesterday when I brought home our beautiful, whole red snapper for dinner that night—and rightfully so, as a whole roasted fish is not only a delicious and filling meal, but it’s also an astoundingly easy one that is impressive enough for a crowd.
In this instance, the fish is stuffed with petite Key limes and a mix of herbs, but almost any flavor profile can work with almost any type of fish. Think of it as a mix and match: Branzino with Mediterranean herbs? Dorado with a Mexican flair? The only limit is within your fridge, pantry and imagination.
After getting the fish gutted and scaled (which your fishmonger will gladly do, for the squeamish!), even the cooking process is simple. About 15 minutes in the oven and you have perfectly fragrant, succulent fillets. There isn’t a more beautiful (or tasty) presentation.
Whole Roasted Red Snapper with Lime
Adapted from Bon Appétit
1 3 1/2 lb. head-on red snapper, scaled and gutted (Black sea bass and branzino would also work.)
1/4 c. olive oil plus more for oiling and drizzling
5 Key limes, thinly sliced, plus 1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1/2 bunch each basil and cilantro, stems and leaves separated
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Score fish by cutting one slash lengthwise down to the bone, then crosswise in two places, spacing apart; repeat on other side. Season fish cavity and skin with salt; drizzle fish with 1/4 c. oil. Stuff some of the lime slices and herb stems inside fish.
2. Roasted fish in over for 15 minutes. Flipping halfway through, by placing a metal spatula underneath fish, then lifting and gently rolling over to the other side. Cook until flesh is flaky and opaque down to the bone. Use a small knife to check for doneness; if it slides easily through the thickest part of flesh, fish is done.
3. Place fish on a serving platter; drizzle oil and lime juice over. Garnish with reserved lime slices, basil leaves, and cilantro.
We paired this beautiful fish with a grilled vegetable and rice salad with fish sauce vinaigrette. This recipe was from one of our favorite chefs, Zak Pelaccio, the chef behind Fatty ‘Cue and Fatty Crab. Fatty ‘Cue opened just one street over from us last year and surprisingly, we’ve both fallen in love with the tongue-tingling Asian spices combined with meaty barbecue.
Taking a cue (no pun intended) from our favorite restaurant, this salad combines a smoky char from the grilled veggies with a slightly spicy, salty and sweet dressing—a quintessential combination of the southeast Asian flavors Pelaccio is known for at his restaurants.
Grilled Vegetable and Rice Salad with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette
Adapted from Bon Appétit
For the salad:
1 ear of corn, shucked
1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise, centers scooped out
2 Holland chiles (or other long chiles), stemmed
1 small eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1″ slices
1 tsbp. sea salt
For the dressing and salad:
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. light brown sugar
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 c. mixed fresh herbs (We used basil and cilantro.)
2 c. steamed jasmine rice
1. Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Brush grill grates with oil. Meanwhile, combine corn, zucchini, chiles, eggplant, and salt in a large bowl; drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Grill vegetables, turning frequently, until crisp-tender and lightly charred, about 8 minutes. Place chiles in a medium bowl; cover tightly with plastic to let steam for easy peeling. Set chiles aside for dressing.
2. Cut corn kernels from cobs; place in a large bowl. Cut zucchini and eggplant into irregular 1″ pieces; place in bowl with corn. Set aside.
3. Peel or scrape off charred skin from chiles and discard. Purée chiles (with seeds) and garlic in a food processor or mash with a mortar and pestle until a coarse paste forms. Add sugar and process or pound until dissolved. Stir in fish sauce and lime juice.
4. Drizzle dressing over warm vegetables; add herbs and toss well. Scoop steamed rice onto a platter and top with salad.
We were feeling particularly peckish, so we surprisingly—or unsurprisingly—devoured the entire meal, even though it certainly could have fed four or more. Without a doubt, both of these items should definitely be on order at your next summer cookout.
Paired with a nice Riesling as we did (another summer vice!), you’d be hard-pressed to find a better meal for a steamy day or a cool summer night.