This recipe, which is adapted from one by Chef Rick Moonen of Oceana in New York City, makes for a wonderful presentation, and the accompaniments of fresh grilled fennel and ratatouille are perfect complements for a summer meal.
A round, Rhône-style white blend with a balance of grassy flavors and honey/sweet fruit will enhance and temper the acid and spice of this dish; recommended wines include Torbreck’s Marsanne-Viognier-Roussanne blend from Australia, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc from Château Le Nerthe, or Treana’s Rhône-inspired white from the Central Coast of California.
- For the snapper
- 1 whole (4 to 6 pound) red snapper, scaled, gills removed, gutted, rinsed, and patted dry
- Freshly ground white pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon sliced fresh garlic
- 1 tablespoon roughly chopped Italian parsley
- 1 to 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, peel on, sliced in 1/4-inch half-moons
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- For the ratatouille
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 small eggplant, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 zucchini, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1 yellow squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 2 tablespoons diced shallot
- 2 tablespoons diced garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup diced seeded plum tomatoes
- For the grilled fennel
- 1 bulb fennel
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To marinate the snapper: Using a sharp knife, make three shallow incisions on each side of the snapper. Place the snapper in a stainless-steel pan and season with white pepper. Place the garlic, parsley, olive oil, lemon, oregano, white pepper and red pepper flakes in a bowl and mash them together with your hands, combining all the juices. Lightly massage the marinade into the snapper, being careful of the dorsal fin, which can be very sharp. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
To make the ratatouille: Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the oil ripples. Add the onion, stir to coat with oil, and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add the bell peppers and stir; cook briefly, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the eggplant, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and squash, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes, or until all the vegetables are soft. Add the shallot, garlic, and thyme, stir to combine well, and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the diced tomato, heat through, and keep warm until ready to serve.
To prepare the fennel: Trim off the tough outer pieces. Slice the bulb lengthwise into “stalks” ½ inch thick (so that each piece consists of bulb and stalk). Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
To cook the snapper: Rub the grill rack with oil, and preheat the grill, leaving one section with no coals under it. When the coals turn white, the grill is ready. Wipe out the cavity of the snapper with a paper towel (excess oil inside can spill onto the coals and cause flare-ups) and place it on the grill. Grill for 2 minutes, until lightly charred. Turn. (Grasp the snapper between a flat, long-handled spatula underneath and the side of a long-handled fork on top. Do not pierce the fish with the fork.) Grill for 2 minutes, until charred. When both sides are charred, move the snapper to the side of the grill without coals directly below. Cover the grill and let the snapper cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the flesh inside the cavity is opaque, not translucent.
Meanwhile, grill the fennel for about 2 1/2 minutes, turn, and grill the other side for 2 1/2 minutes, or until the fennel is lightly charred. Remove from the grill.
When the snapper is done, place it on a serving platter and surround with the grilled fennel and ratatouille. Serve immediately.