Snapper is classified as a round fish, with a backbone along its upper body that separates plump meat on either side. The shape of snapper lends itself to two thick fillet portions, which make for tasty and filling meals. Because the fillets are thick, test for doneness by cutting through the thickest part of the fillet with the tip of a sharp knife. When the snapper is done, the meat will be opaque but still moist and juicy.
Sautéing is a fast and easy way to cook snapper fillets. Because the fish is flaky, use a nonstick skillet or saute with olive oil so it won't stick in the pan. A stainless steel pan, however, with oil will produce better browning. Season the fish with salt and pepper, and lay it with the skin side down in a hot pan. Cook the fish for about three minutes on each side, just until it becomes opaque and flaky. Sautéed snapper is delicious topped with olives, laid on a bed of greens or covered with salsa. Or serve it atop a generous green salad with Caesar dressing.
Bake snapper in the oven with a minimum of fuss. Cut a few slits on each side of the fish in the thickest part of the fillet, but not all the way to the bone. Lay it in an oven-proof casserole dish and bake it for about 30 minutes oat n 425 degrees Fahrenheit. When it's done, the skin will be crispy, and the interior of the fillet will be juicy and moist. For extra flavor, marinate the fish before baking after you've cut the slits in the sides. Use a soy sauce base for Asian cuisine or a spicy marinade for a Mexican feast.
Grill baskets for fish keep the fillets intact when cooking, so you don't see large pieces of your delicious meat fall into the flames. If you don't have a grill basket, make sure your grill is very clean to prevent sticking. The fish should cook for about seven minutes on each side. Turn the fish carefully so it doesn't break. Grill vegetables on a skewer or corn on the cob to serve as sides, or lay the snapper on a bed of couscous.
Before cooking, take out any bones left in the fillets with tweezers. Be careful when turning the snapper during cooking because the fish is very delicate, especially after it begins to cook. Use an angled slotted spatula with a curved lip to turn the snapper, and even a second spatula to hold it while turning. Spices that go particularly well with snapper include basil, chives, marjoram, tarragon and rosemary. Lemon is always delicious with fish; put lemon wedges on the table when serving the snapper meal.
- "The New Basics"; Julee Rosso, et al.; 1989
- Fine Cooking; Sauteed Snapper with Broken Black-Olive Vinaigrette; Rick Rodgers
- "Gourmet"; Sauteed Red Snapper Fillets with Fennel and Orange; February 2001
Jill Davis started writing professionally in 2006. She has had articles published in "Yogi Times" and "Orange Pealings" magazines. Davis received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from California State University, Long Beach.
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