August 1, 2016
A whole snapper can be a daunting proposition for many home cooks. Deciding how to cook it is a complicated process, but for some reason people rarely seem to cook them whole?
This method is almost foolproof and because the fish is cooked whole, you don't waste a bit. You can even pick the bones once finished and have what you find on toast the next morning (seriously try this).
Charmoula is punchy North African paste of herbs, spices and oil and goes well with all fish and white meat. The anchovy, capers and garlic give it some real guts, but this does soften somewhat when cooked. For this reason, it is always good to serve any left-over charmoula drizzled on top of the fish or in a bowl on the side for those who like their flavours strong.
When checking the fish for doneness, you can use a tooth pick to poke the thickest part and see if there is any resistance. When done it should slide freely to the bone, much like you would check a boiled potato with a knife. You can also use a knife in one of the slashes you have made to see if it will flake away at the bone (don't worry if you make a bit of a mess as you can always cover it up with some charmoula before you serve it).
You know you have cooked the fish perfectly when the flesh easily comes away and the bone is still translucent, but not an opaque colour white (meaning you left it in long enough to cook the bone too). This is the point where you get the sweetest, juiciest flesh - so keep checking every few minutes once it is getting close. As always with seafood, it is better to take it out a little sooner than you think as it will keep cooking even after it has been removed from the oven.
Slash the thickest parts of the snapper on each side at an angle. This will allow the paste to penetrate and also allow it to cook more evenly. Rub the charmoula all over the outside of the fish and be sure to get plenty inside the cavity.
Don't forget to search out the meat in the head found just above the eyes and in the cheeks. It is often reserved as a special treat for the cook.