As I mentioned in a recent post, fish and shellfish (pescado y marisco) are extremely popular over the holidays in Spain. Generally, the better the quality of the fish, the simpler the preparation should be. It would be a shame to overwhelm the flavor of a fine fish with strong sauces or spices.
So when Ana found a whole red snapper with a nice bright orange eye and some fresh shrimp with the heads still attached at the fish market, I prepared the fish in much the same way Esperanza, my mother-in-law, does fresh lubina (sea bass) in Spain. This is one of the simplest ways to prepare whole fish that I know.
This technique would work well with many types of mild-flavored fish. (I would really like to try it with a fresh pompano). The important thing is that the fish is absolutely fresh.
Here's how to do it:
a whole red snapper, or some other mild fresh fish of your choice
wedges of onion
wedges of tomato
freshly ground black pepper
First prepare the fish. (The shrimp are cooked at the last minute).
Preheat the oven to 500.
Scale and gut the fish. Season it with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, including inside the cavity. Rub it down with olive oil. Place the fish in a cazuela or a casserole dish. Surround the fish with wedges of onion and tomato. Sprinkle chopped parsely on top.
Put the cazuela in the oven. I used our Kamado (Big Green Egg), basically a small wood burning oven (not an ordinary grill). It gives a great fire roasted taste, but any oven will do.
How long should the fish cook? It depends on how big it is. I use the "ten minutes per inch rule." This is to say, I measure the fish's thickness at its thickest point (right behind the head), and I cook it for ten minutes per inch of thickness.
If my snapper had been two inches thick, I would have roasted it for twenty minutes. However it was a small snapper, only one and a half inches thick, so I cooked it fifteen minutes.
While the fish is roasting, prepare the shrimp. This is easy. Don't shell them. Don't pull the heads off. They will have much more flavor if you leave them as they are. Just rub them with some kosher salt, black pepper, and a little olive oil.
When the fish needs to roast only five minutes more, put the shrimp in the cazuela with it.
Close the oven again. Let the fish and shrimp roast for five minutes. Check them. The shrimp should turn pink. They should smell wonderful. If the shrimp haven't turned completely pink yet, leave them in the oven 2 minutes more. Be careful not to overcook them.