Yum…Red Snapper. Probably one of my favorite fish in the whole wide world. Really brings back some fond memories.
(Weird flashback segue music here…)
I remember back, when I was in my twenty’s, scuba diving off Destin Florida. I was either hunting lobster, snapper or amberjack. I was in the Air Force at the time stationed at Eglin Air Force base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Saturdays or Sundays would usually find me 80 to 90 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
One day, early on, I thought, if I came in with a couple of fair sized fish, that I had no idea how to cook them. So I asked one of the guys at the chow hall if they could help me, and instantly became friends with the second in charge chow hall chef. He was the chef that worked weekends and whenever the main chef didn’t want to work. (I wish I could remember his name) He told me that if some weekend, I gave him some advance notice and came in with enough fish for both of us, he would cook them up.
So, I asked him if he knew anything about cooking Red Snapper. Wow. What I didn’t know was that he was full fledged Cajun from the bayou’s of Louisiana and had a blackened snapper recipe that kicked serious hinny. I have to say now, that the snapper he grilled for me turned out way better than the SOS that I usually ate in the mornings along with what looked like scrambled eggs and coffee.
I was stationed at a remote field at Eglin and not on the main base. So there was a little more freedom to do things there. That small field north of the main base had a chow hall that provided 3 squares Monday through Friday, and breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday. He told me to come after the end of the last shift on Sunday which was the noon meal and he would cook up anything I brought. So I came in toting a couple of snappers and some conk.
In the kitchen, they had all sorts of cooking devices. They had deep fryers, ovens, flat grills and gas grills. They even had a smoker built out of 55 gallon drums out back. So the kitchen pretty much had any way available that one might want to use to cook anything.
I remember that when he fired up the big gas grill, he also flipped on the fan of the giant overhead vent hood and opened the doors under the burners. I figured it was to take out the odor of the fish as they were cooking. When I asked, he told me that was indeed the case but by opening the doors under the burners, the moving air would also get the fire hotter. It really didn’t make sense to me at the time, but hey, he was the cook, no…Chef. All I know is that it looked like he was about to turn those two little snappers into charred flying fish sticks.
As the inferno was building, he snagged a mixing bowl and started taking all these spices and stuff and throwing them into the bowl and mixing them all up. He then took the fish, filleted them, removing all the heads, tails, guts and stuff along the way. He then rinsed the slices of fish in hot water. He then took a serrated knife and scraped the slices on each side and placed them into a tray. He started sprinkling the seasoning mix all over each side of the slices. He then took a pan and put a little over a quarter of a cup of lemon juice in it and put it on the grill. He kept it there until it started boiling and then removed it from the grill. He then put the fish slices on the grill, and while they were cooking he put a stick of butter in the pan with the lemon juice. As the butter was melting, he added in some minced parsley.
Each fish slice was grilled on each side for about 4 minutes, and then flipped. There was a brief time when the grill flared and I believed all was lost. But he assured me that all was going well. And soon, he popped those little puppies off the grill and onto two plates. He poured the lemon/butter mixture over it added a lemon twist to the top of the fish along with some bread, and sat everything down on a table that was back in the kitchen area.
MAN! THAT WAS GOOOOOOOOOOD!
I was eating little fork fulls of Heaven. I learned something else that day. Food tastes ten times better with your eyes closed. Another thing. He warned me that there may still be some bones. And…I found em too. All in all, I left with a bag of wrapped up grilled snapper, some boiled conk and a great big smile.
Here’s the recipe:
- 2 red snapper fillets, halved
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/8 teaspoon onion salt
- 1/8 teaspoon thyme
- 1/8 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- 1/2 cup butter
- Mix together paprika, cayenne, salt, garlic salt, onion salt, thyme, oregano, and pepper.
- Sprinkle over each side of the red snapper.
- Oil grill grate and preheat grill.
- Bring lemon juice to a boil.
- Remove from heat and add butter.
- Mix well.
- Grill red snapper until done. (About 4 minutes per side.)
- Remove fish from grill.
- Add parsley to lemon butter.
- Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter mixture over each piece of fish.
- Serve. (Garnish with parsley)
One other thing. He told me that he grills both red and black snapper the same. So the recipe works for both.
NOTE: Do NOT refreeze meat after thawed as that may result in the cooked meat becoming mushy. Freezing breaks muscle fibers when the fluids freeze and expand, then when it thaws, water and fluids again settle into different parts of the muscles. The refreeze causes this fluid to again expand which breaks additional fibers. (tenderizing) The result is a breakdown of the muscle fibers in the meat which can cause mushiness. Fish are especially susceptible to becoming mushy as the meat is much more delicate.