Mr. Snapper used to live at the North Market fish stand until the Knitticrafty household decided to explore the world of grilled fish. Stuffed with lemon, thyme, garlic and butter, he was a very good fish indeed! Neither D or I had ever grilled a fish whole before, but with a well-oiled grill and minimal fussing (i.e. resist the urge to check and turn the fish) it is possible!
Look at those big fish lips!
A lot of people are squeamish about seeing their dinner in its original state, with heads, necks, tails and all. I've never really understood what the big deal is - although being Asian, you get exposed to this sort of thing early on. Get to know your food! It's OK. Let this be your first exposure session. Stare at the picture until you feel your anxiety subside, which might take several minutes. Practice makes perfect and soon you will be able to face your own whole fishie. It's more delicious this way.
Grilled Whole Red Snapper:
1 whole fish, about 1.5 pounds
2 tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lemon, sliced
2 sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
Have your fish person scale and trim the fish, and empty the body cavity. Salt and pepper the outside and inside of the fish. Mix the butter, herbs and garlic together, and stuff this mixture into the cavity, along with the lemon slices too. On medium-high heat on your grill (let it preheat), brush the grill generously with oil. Now lay the fish diagonally on the grill to get pretty grill marks. Cook 10 minutes on each side, and resist the urge to move it around - you will get a botched up fish with bits falling off if you fuss with it! When the thickest part of the fish flakes with a fork, you're done. Yum!
Since Mr. Snapper was nice enough to give us his fish life, it would only be right to use every last bit of him we could. So, we used his bones for fish stock and made seafood chowda with the rest of the fillet, adding clams and shrimp, which ended up giving us 3 dinners altogether. How's that for no waste?
New England Clam Chowder:
From Epicurious.com, modified a bit
24 ounces fish stock (or bottled clam juice)
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
3 slices bacon or salt pork, finely chopped
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/4 cups chopped celery with leaves (about 2 large stalks)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 lbs of littleneck clams, or whatever clams you can get (or 6 6 1/2-ounce cans chopped clams, drained, juices reserved)
1 1/4 cups half and half cream
Soak the clams in water for a couple hours with some salt to release any sand. Then, put the fish stock in a pot, bring to a boil, and throw in the clams to steam. Put the lid on and leave for 7-8 minutes until the shells fully open. Discard any unopen clams. Remove clams to a bowl, shell half of them, keeping some in the shell for garnish. Now you have a potful of yummy fish stock enhanced by clam juice! You can strain it at this point in case any sand got in there. Add the potatoes, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until bacon begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add onions, celery, garlic and bay leaf and sauté until vegetables soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes (do not allow flour to brown). Gradually whisk in reserved juices from clams. Add potato mixture, shelled clams, half and half and any other ingrediants you want (like shrimp, or leftover fish). Simmer chowderto blend flavors, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Bring to simmer before serving.)
I threw a handful of chopped chived and thyme on mine to make it pretty.