Grilled Whole Red Snapper Veracruz

This is a dish that shows how Spanish cooking influenced Mexican cooking – combining fresh fish with both the heat of peppers and the salty tang of capers and olives. Grilling is an excellent way to do whole fish as the fish stays moist while the skin gets nice and crispy, and all the fishy smells stay outside.

The fish

2  – 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-pound whole red snappers, cleaned and scaled
Juice of 1 lime (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon Ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Put the salt and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the remaining ingredients, except the fish, and give them a whirl until they are well-combined.

Rinse the fish inside and out and pat dry. Make 3 cuts on each side of the fish, about 1/2 inch deep. Place the fish in a shallow pan and coat with the lime marinade, making sure to work some of it into the cuts.


The sauce

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 4-ounce can green chillies
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
1/4 cup pickled jalapeños, chopped
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 bay leaves

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic.  Cook until onion is soft, about 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, green chillies, and bay leaves. Cook for 1 minute.  Add olives,  jalapeños, and capers. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Cover and keep warm.


The cook

Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium heat, about 350°F. Generously oil the grate. Put the fish on and grill for 7-10  minutes. Turn and grill until the skin is golden brown and the flesh is just opaque, about another 7-10 minutes.  Carefully remove the fish so it doesn’t stick.

You can serve just the fillets by running a knife between the flesh and the bones and lifting off the meat. But there’s so much good eating on the head and along the bones that we often just serve the fish whole on the plate.  Top with the sauce and serve with refried black beans and plenty of corn tortillas to soak up the juice.

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