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Nothing adds excitement to the Christmas Eve table like the rosy pink color of red snapper with its lean, mild flavor and texture that leaves all your guests wanting more. It is particularly special when that snapper is supplied courtesy of Gary Yamamoto, Alisa Johnson, Angela Brumley and the women of the LBAA. I first had salt encrusted snapper in Spain and I was totally unfamiliar with this method of cooking fish. Since then a whole baked snapper has become one of my favorites. Here’s what you need to do to wow your holiday guests. For those not familiar with cleaning a whole fish for baking:

  1. In the sink or over newspaper, scale the snapper with the blunt edge of your fillet knife or with a metal fish scaler if you have one.

  2. Repeatedly scrape the skin until all the scales have been removed, including from the head, cheeks and wings (the area under the head).

  3. Using a set of game or poultry scissors to preserve your knife edge, and trim the belly and back fins off the backbone. Cut the wings away from the area underneath the gills and head.

  4. Rinse the fish under cold water. The skin, which is edible, can be left on.

  1. Insert the point of your fillet knife in the dorsal vent at the underside of the snapper, toward the tail, blade pointing forward toward the head of the fish.

  2. Press the knife into the belly about 1/2 inch, and draw the blade toward the head all the way up to the gills. Pull up the gill cover and trim where the gills attach to the head.

  3. Place your fingers in the body cavity and pull out the guts, from the gills to the back of the fish. Scrape out any guts attached to the bone, and rinse the snapper under cold water.

Ingredients for Salt-encrusted Baked Snapper

  • 1 (proportions based on 4-pound fish) whole red snapper, cleaned

  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

  • 1 orange, sliced

  • 1 pound fresh fennel, chopped

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 shallot, minced

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 4 egg whites

  • 1 cup kosher salt


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the parsley, orange, fennel, bay leaves, shallot, red pepper flakes, fennel seed, and 1/4-cup olive oil. Stuff the cavity of the fish with 3/4 of the mixture, then spread the remaining 1/4 on the bottom of a roasting pan so the fish will not stick.

  2. Transfer the fish to the roasting pan and rub the skin with remaining olive oil.

  3. In another bowl, whip the egg whites to a stiff peak, then fold in the salt to make a paste.

  4. Smear the salt paste over the entire fish

  5. Roast in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 30 to 40 minutes. The egg whites form a

hard crust that will crack like a shell. To serve, scoop the flesh from the fish with a serving spatula or spoon.

When it comes to what to serve with your snapper, you can’t go wrong with a crusty sourdough bread, and asparagus with seasoned rice. If you want to really make a statement and set a mood, think about making it a Cajun meal accompanied with red beans and rice. Whatever you decide, your friends will be wowed.


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