Saturday, 17 May 2014

Oven roasted red snapper

Oven roasted red snapper

Today I want to share one of the simplest, and in my opinion most delicious, way of preparing fish, especially whole fish. This recipe is the proof that cooking fish, and making it good, is not difficult as many people think. Probably fish scares people because the cleaning and preparation process is not easy and, at least for me, not at all a bed of roses; but fishmongers are always available and ready to do the hard job for us.
Of course, raw materials and the fish in particular have the most important role in this recipe. I think that this is a universal rule in the kitchen, but it is even more true when the recipe tends more to bring out the taste of each single ingredient than to combine and transform them to create a new blend of flavors.
But anyway, when it comes to fish it must absolutely be fresh (it's better a frozen fish than a some days old fresh one), this is the basic. Then I have some ideas regarding the origin of the fish I buy:
  1. I prefer wild fish to farmed one (the only exception I personally make is for salmon because, if not living in or close to Scotland or Canada, it may be difficult to find the wild)
  2. the fish must have not traveled a lot. This is a rule I follow for all ingredients I use, especially the fresh ones like fruits, vegetable and fish; I think this is important on one side because the closest food comes from the freshest and tastier it is, on the other hand because buying local is a form of respect for the environment (less fuel, less pollution) and contributes to local economy. And, other things being equal (quality level in particular), local food usually costs less.
  3. if possible, I prefer to buy a whole fish instead of fillets
Going back to the recipe, when living in Italy, I used to cook this way fishes like sea-bass, sea-bream, turbot, or even whole monk-fish. Since I prefer local fish, as I just said, in Dubai I started trying new (for me) species and, so far, one of my favorite is red snapper. And made this way it is really delicious. 
Pair it with a good dry whine and the dinner will be perfect.    

Oven roasted red snapper
serves 2
1 whole red snapper, about 600 - 700 g, prepared for oven roasting
8 baby potatoes - or 2 to 3 average potatoes
about 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
fresh herbs  (thyme, oregano. rosemary)
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
60 ml (1/4 cup) dry white wine (optional)
freshly ground pepper

Put some fresh water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. In the meantime carefully wash and brush baby potatoes  (or peel the normal ones and chop them into 1/2 cm slices). When the water boils, add the potatoes and simmer, partially covered, for about 10 minutes - they need to be almost cooked but not quite – then drain off the water and set aside.  
Line a baking dish with parchment paper (optional) and preheat the oven to 200°C.
Arrange the fish - washed and wiped with kitchen paper - in the baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and stuff with some sprigs of fresh herbs.  Arrange the potatoes, halved or quartered  depending on the size, around the fish then add the halved cherry tomatoes. Season vegetables with salt and pepper , toss with olive oil, add the fresh herbs, lemon zests and sprinkle with white wine, if using.
Oven roasted red snapper before cooking

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then eliminate the foil, check the doneness of the fish and bake until cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Pay attention not to overcook otherwise the fish will become too dry. If the fish is ready but the sauce is to liquid, remove the fish from the dish and bake vegetables  for 5 to 10 additional minutes. In the meantime clean the fish and arrange fillets on warmed serving plates; don't discard a very tasty part - in my opinion - that is the fish cheek; I usually dig it out with a coffee spoon, but the tip of a knife also works well.

Arrange the vegetable around the fish, sprinkle on top all the warm juices that are in the baking dish and serve, adding if necessary additional freshly ground pepper and olive oil. 

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