Iowa City is about as far from an ocean as I’ve ever lived, so it was with great glee that I learned from my friend Sarah last year about “The Shrimp Guy.” The crew from Fabian’s Seafood drops into town about every four weeks from April to November, delivering shrimp, crabmeat, crawfish, and other seafood goodies straight off the plane from Galveston, Texas.
The last time they came through, I picked up some shrimp, some crabmeat, and a whole red snapper. Steve and I had gotten a whole fish and grilled it after Fabian’s April visit, and it was delicious.
But when I got it home, I realized one very important thing: Steve was the one with the fishing background. I didn’t know the first thing about working with a whole fish, and now that I’m cooking for one, I was going to have to figure it out.
I did what any resourceful girl would do: threw the whole thing in the freezer and ignored it for a few weeks.
“I don’t know how to scale it,” I told The Mint Killer one night. I knew they came pre-gutted, but had no idea how to even begin dealing with the scale issue.
“Bring it over,” she said. “I’ll teach you.”
We decided The Mint Killer’s Fourth of July barbeque was as good a time as any to put the fish to good use. I thawed out the red snapper, then called The Mint Killer that afternoon to discuss preparation.
“Should I bring anything for it?” I asked.
She rattled off a list of delicious things: pine nuts, basil, cheese.
“Cheese?” I asked. I had never heard of pairing cheese with fish. In fact, I’d heard quite the opposite: No cheese and fish together. EVER.
“Just some feta, if you’ve got it.”
I cut some basil from the garden and arrived at her house, bounty in hand. We took the fish over to the sink, and she scaled one side by using a fairly sharp knife and scraping from the tail toward the head. The scales popped off, flying around the sink like sequins at a prom. Then she handed it to me to take care of the other side. In a few minutes, we had the fish ready to prep, its reddish color stripped from its sides, the flesh laid bare.
Next, The Mint Killer sliced the sides of the flesh and we pressed ginger, garlic, mint and basil into the slits and rubbed more mint and basil over the skin. We squeezed half a lime over each side and stuffed the fish with the pine nuts, more ginger and garlic, more mint and basil, and the spent lime halves. A quick securing job with some bamboo skewers, and we put the fish in the fridge to soak in those flavors until it was time to grill it up.
The result? A flavorful, scale-free fish that wowed the guests at the barbeque. And the cheese? It totally worked, no matter what all the anti-cheese-and-fish folks will tell you.
1 whole red snapper, gutted and scaled
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp. sliced fresh ginger
A handful of fresh basil leaves
A handful of fresh mint leaves
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
A handful of pine nuts
- Cut diagonal slits in each side of the fish. Stuff the slits on one side with a quarter of the garlic, ginger, basil and mint. Rub any basil and mint that is spilling out of the slits over the skin on that side of the fish. Squeeze half the lime over that side, and rub the juice into the skin, as well.
- Repeat on the other side of the fish. Stuff both spent lime halves into the body cavity of the fish.
- Add the pine nuts, feta and the remaining basil, mint, garlic and ginger to the cavity stuffing. Secure the body cavity closed with bamboo skewers (Just break them off if they’re too long and stick out too much, but be sure they’re long enough to hold the fish together, including when you flip it).
- Let the fish rest on a plate in the refrigerator for up to four hours.
- Grill the fish on foil over medium-high heat for approximately 10 minutes per side (the timing will depend on the thickness and size of the fish – you want the meat to flake with a fork when it’s done). Serve immediately.
This is my post for Weekend Herb Blogging, which is hosted this week by Chris of Mele Cotte. Please stop by later this weekend for the full round-up!