This story begins with a quest. Not just any quest, but a quest for wild-caught salmon on a busy Saturday grocery shopping trip, but it was nowhere to be found. My husband had read a very convincing article on the benefits of wild-caught salmon over farmed salmon and is now a convert. So I suggested Northwest Seafood, the best seafood market in Gainesville, surely must have wild-caught salmon.
Alas, not even Northwest Seafood had any wild-caught salmon! Apparently salmon season hasn’t even started yet. So we looked at their other offerings, and of course I went straight to the whole fish counter as started pointing at random fish and asking questions. As usual, one of the fishermen was behind the counter and happy to answer my weird questions. I quickly chose a beautiful mangrove snapper caught off the shore of Yankeetown, exactly 63 miles away. I don’t know enough about fishing practices to tell you whether their fish is “sustainably caught”, but Northwest Seafood is the only place in town for local fish.
Cooking a whole fish is even easier than cooking steaks or fillets. Whole fish are much more forgiving. It’s easy to keep a whole fish moist and perfectly cooked, and honestly I think fish cooked on the bone tastes better.
Mangrove Snapper with Herbed Mustard Glaze
1 3 lb whole Mangrove Snapper, scaled, gutted and “with a haircut” (fins removed)
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
2-3 green onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and sliced
2 tbl dry white wine or white wine vinegar
2 tbl olive oil
1 tsp honey
2 tbl dijon mustard
2 tbl whole-grain or creole mustard
salt & pepper
1 lemon, sliced
Heat the oven to 425. Rinse the whole fish well in cold running water, inside and out, until the water runs clear. Check the skin for scales by brushing the skin from tail to head with your fingers. Lay the fish out on a roasting pan. Brush 1 tbl of olive oil over the body of the fish, especially any flesh without skin on it. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast the fish for 10 minutes.
While the fish is roasting, make the sauce. Combine parsley through creole mustard in a small food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Taste for salt and pepper and add if necessary. After 10 minutes of roasting, remove the fish from the oven and spread half of the glaze on the body of the fish, just from the jaw to the tail. Then roast for a further 5-10 minutes or until the flesh near the backbone separates into flakes with a fork. Make sure to let the fish rest for a least 5 minutes before cutting into it.
With a fork and spatula, remove the upper fillet in two pieces, leaving the rib bones in place. Then grab the end of the backbone at the tail and pull up carefully to remove the backbone and head. Then remove the ribs from the lower fillet with the fork and serve the lower fillet with the rest of the sauce. Add a squeeze of lemon.
I served this with roasted carrots, sauteed swiss chard with butter and garlic, and steamed rice. Delicious!