GREEK-STYLE BAKED WHOLE RED SNAPPER (with bread stuffing, for two)
“In the Florida Panhandle…Gulf red snapper is prized and very popular. And in this region, as throughout the South, many small cafes and restaurants are run by people of Greek descent. They mostly serve traditional Southern food, but the influence of Greek cooking surfaces in some dishes, like this delicious roasted red snapper.” Scott Peacock, The Gift of Southern Cooking
For the fish:
two 1-1/2 to 2 pound whole red snappers, scaled, gutted and gills removed
1 tablespoon dried Greek oregano (if you can’t find Greek oregano, use high quality dried thyme)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 whole lemons, 1 for juicing and 1 for slicing
pure olive oil
For the stuffing:
a generous two cups 1-inch bread cubes cut from day-old sturdy bread, crusts removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 425*.
2. Rinse fish under cool running water to remove any scales, blood or viscera. Carefully blot dry, inside and out with paper toweling. Us a sharp kitchen knife and extend the cavity of the gutted fish down the length of the backbone almost to the tail, so that the entire fish, except for the head, is almost butterflied. Close t he fish and cut vertical slashes, four or five, down the length of the body. Proceed down the length of the fish, spacing the slashed about 1 inch apart down both sides of the fish.
3. Mix together in a small bowl the crumbled oregano, salt and pepper. Rub the seasoning into the fish’s cavity, inside the slashes and sprinkle any remaining over the surface of the fish.
4. Prepare the stuffing. Put the cubed bread into a mixing bowl. Pour the melted butter and extra-virgin olive oil over and add the garlic, parsley and salt and pepper. Toss well to distribute the seasonings. Taste carefully and adjust seasoning if needed.
5. Return to the fish. Squeeze lemon juice liberally inside each fish. Divide the stuffing and put half into the cavity of each fish. Don’t be afraid to use a little force if needed to fill the cavity and press the sides of the fish down to regain its shape. Squeeze lemon juice over the fish generously, then cut thin lemon slices and insert into the slits on the topside of the fish.
6. Place on a lipped baking pan lined with parchment or a Silpat, drizzle with pure olive oil, put into the middle of the preheated oven and roast for approximately 20 minutes, until the fish is cooked and the skin begins to crisp and color. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer to large plates. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle lightly with chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, The Gift of Southern Cooking