I have come to the conclusion that we are not having Summer in 2010. Today the high in Manhattan Beach was 69 degrees F and I am still wearing my winter clothes to work. You know that phenomenon where when Halloween happens, a couple of days later it’s Thanksgiving and a couple of days after that it is Christmas? Well, on Friday when I was driving home from work I saw the first Halloween costume store pop up in an empty store front. And I received my catalog for my cookbook book club and there was one whole page titled “Beautiful Holiday Recipes.” Maybe I should get going on my New Year’s Eve recipes, because it’s right around the corner.
But nooo, I’m back here grilling a whole fish, pretending its summer. I got my whole Red Snapper at the 99 Ranch Market, which has about 25 feet of whole fresh fish on ice. The fish guy cleaned out and scaled my fish so it was ready to cook. The truth is, this is the first whole fish I have ever grilled and I was quite excited to give it a try.
I wasn’t sure if I should put the fish directly on the grill or in a grill basket, so I started out putting it on the grill, which I had sprayed with oil. I left it on for five minutes to cook the skin, but when I tried to turn it with a spatula, the skin had stuck to the grill in places and came off. So after I got it loose, I put it in a sprayed grill basket and continued on from there. I cooked it covered and turned it several times, basting with the marinade each time, until it was no longer opaque. I brushed the marinade over the whole fish on the serving platter to give it a beautiful shiny presentation.
I picked Red Snapper because every recipe I read on grilling whole fish listed it as one of the best tasting choices. And because I’m me, I had to do some research to find out all about this fish. So. The Red Snapper is found in the Gulf of Mexico and the southeast Atlantic coast of the U.S. They have been caught at over 40 pounds, but the usual range is up to 10 pounds and 20 inches in length. They are sexually mature at 2-5 years and can live for more than 50 years. Their vibrant red color comes from the high levels of carotenoid pigments, mostly astaxanthin, coming from shrimp in their natural diet.
The Ginger Sweet Chili Sauce for dipping was inspired by a dish I had at a Thai restaurant a couple of years ago and has been percolating at the back of my mind ever since. As I recall, my husband had ordered a whole deep fried fish, and when he’d had his fill, I tried a bite or two and ended up finishing the whole thing, because the ginger sauce was so amazing. So I hope you enjoy my rendition, because we certainly did!
Grilled Whole Red Snapper with Ginger Sweet Chile Sauce
1 whole red snapper, gutted and scaled
lime or lemon slices
fresh basil, chopped
fresh cilantro, chopped
4 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
5 cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown or palm sugar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons Thai sweet chili sauce
½ teaspoon sambal oelek (optional)
4 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced fine
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
½ teaspoon sambal oelek or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1. Warm your grill or start your coals.
2. Mix the Dipping Sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Mix the Marinade ingredients together in a medium bowl and set aside.
4. Place the fish on a foil covered sheet pan. Score 3 diagonal cuts 1 ½ inches apart along the length of fish from head to tail on both sides.
5. Drizzle 3 tablespoons or more of marinade over fish, covering both sides, in cuts and in underside cavity.
6. Place fish in a grill basket and grill for 20 minutes with the cover of grill closed, turning when each side is a little charred. Brush with marinade at each turning and continue to barbeque until fish will flake.
7. Place on serving platter and brush with marinade for a glossy finish. Remove fish fillets to plates, squeeze lemon or lime juice over, and sprinkle with chopped basil and cilantro. Serve with Dipping Sauce in small bowls.