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Roasted Whole Red Snapper With Tomatoes, Basil, And Oregano by Scott Conant

One of the reasons why I chose to work with the Alzheimer’s Association is because my grandmother had dementia and some of the most meaningful moments I had with her were around the table, sharing a meal. So, I wanted to create a recipe that’s fun, easy, full of flavor, and, most importantly, can be enjoyed together with friends and loved ones. Words alone can’t convey how magnificent, how beautifully ceremonial a whole fish looks when presented at the table. I’m always excited when I and a few friends settle in to devour one. (And devour we do, you should see how little is left when we’re through with it.) Aside from being so good-looking, a whole fish also offers much more flavor because the head and the bones add depth to the accompanying sauce. A completely gratifying dish!

by Katie Aubin

Ingredients

for 3 servings

  • 3 lb head-on red snapper (1.5 kg), scaled and cleaned
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus additional to taste
  • 1 lemon, half sliced, divided
  • 5 small sprigs fresh oregano, plus ½ tablespoon chopped leaves, divided
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, plus 1 tablespoon chopped leaves, divided
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomato (300 g), halved
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 6 fingerling potatoes, diced and blanched
  • 1 cup homemade chicken broth (240 mL), or low-sodium chicken broth

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
  2. If the fins are still on the fish, use kitchen scissors to cut them off (they just fall apart when cooked). Season both the inside and outside of the fish liberally with 2 teaspoons of salt. Stuff the cavity with the lemon slices, oregano sprigs, and whole basil leaves.
  3. Using a very large 14 inch (35 cm) sauté pan or a small roasting pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat until nearly smoking. Add the fish and cook until well browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Drizzle with another tablespoon of olive oil and season with remaining ½ teaspoon salt.
  4. Using paper towels, wipe the excess oil out of the pan. Drizzle the fish with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the cherry tomatoes and red pepper flakes and cook until the tomatoes begin to release some of their liquid, about 3 minutes. Stir in the potatoes.
  5. Squeeze the juice from the remaining lemon half over the fish and pour in the chicken broth. Carefully flip the fish over and baste with the sauce.
  6. Transfer the fish to the oven and cook for 18-19 minutes. To check for doneness, push the head down gently in the area between the nose and the top of the head; when the head easily moves away from the back of the neck, the fish is ready.
  7. Carefully transfer the fish to a rimmed serving platter, pouring any liquid from the cavity back into the pan. Cover the fish with foil to keep warm.
  8. Return the pan to the stove over medium heat. Cook the sauce and vegetables for 1-2 minutes to concentrate the flavors. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, chopped oregano, and chopped basil and season with salt to taste.
  9. Pour the sauce and vegetables over the fish and serve, using a large spoon to remove the flesh from the fish. (Don’t forget to turn it over to eat off the other side!)
  10. Enjoy!