Wondering if I disappeared into a black hole over the holidays? If by black hole you mean cooking up a mess of food, hosting parties, nursing a sick kid and then myself, traveling across 7 states and visiting family … then, yes. Yes, I did. And most of it was glorious. I hope your holidays were special, too. I’m also feeling thankful for Baked Red Snapper as I slide back into routine.Jump to Recipe
I’m recharged and ready for the new decade and excited to explore more recipes and reflect on the bond of food and culture. This year, I’ll be digging into family roots and searching out flavors from around the world. I look forward to learning, cooking, and sharing. For those joining me on this journey, I hope you enjoy my posts and try some new dishes!
Before I moved to Tennessee in the mid-2000s, I spent decades in Florida near family, working for small to medium-sized companies and smaller units of large corporations. Many of these companies provided generous holidays, and I almost never wanted for family time.
When I moved to Tennessee, I left family behind and took on a new job in a new career field in a new company in a new industry and—also new for me—at a corporate headquarters … and I discovered fewer holidays and a seniority system that often precluded me from travelling home for the holidays. It was tough. So, in 2019, when I found myself without career or foster children, I took full advantage and travelled almost monthly.
In the summer of 2019, my husband joined me on one such trip, and he and one of my brothers went deep sea fishing. They brought back some Red Snapper—a mildly flavored, meaty, white fish—and brother dear packaged it up for everyone to take home.
We left later that week with fond memories and sweet farewells … without our Red Snapper. My parents placed it in their freezer as soon as they realized we left it. I visited several times thereafter, each time forgetting that Red Snapper. Finally, when hubs and I visited on Veterans Day, we brought Red Snapper home. Yay! I placed it in our freezer, got focused on Thanksgiving and … forgot all about it.
In the Deep, Deep Freeze
In early December, I found Red Snapper hanging out under some frozen ears of corn. Then I got a call and joined my parents on a road trip to make a surprise visit to my 95-year-old grandmother who lives in Austin, Texas. After that I dove deep into Christmas and Hanukkah preparation…. And poor Red Snapper stayed in deep freeze.
When we returned home from our visit to Florida on January 3, 2020, I pulled out some frozen leftovers to heat up. Dear sweet husband pulled out Red Snapper to thaw. I was fully prepared to discover a freezer-burned fish and felt guilty for disrespecting and wasting Red Snapper—even more so because this fish is tightly managed due to overfishing.
I should have known my brother, who has been crazy about fishing for … well, forever, would have cracked the code on freezing fish. Let me recommend: fillets carefully placed inside one plastic freezer bag with air carefully removed, then placed inside another plastic freezer bag with air carefully removed, then wrapped inside freezer paper that is then well taped up. This is what kept Red Snapper pristine for 6 months.
So far so good, but I spent more than 30 years in Florida and I definitely drank the “fresh fish is the only fish” Koolaid. So while I was excited to have cookable fish, I was not so sure that 6-month-old fillets would be that great. On top of that, I don’t exactly cook much fish here in Tennessee, so I was not feeling especially confident about cooking fish after a decade’s hiatus.
The irony is that I had just vowed to approach 2020 fearlessly, the kitchen is one place I’m normally fearless, and I’d just watched the movie Julie & Julia again … so how could I not be more inspired and hopeful as I prepared my first fresh-cooked meal of 2020? Yet here I was, full of guilt and doubt. It was not just a terrible way to start my year, but also needless guilt and doubt, because this fish turned out … delicious!
About Baked Red Snapper
I considered blackened Red Snapper but quickly opted for simplicity. I used a classic recipe for white fish and baked it in the orange Le Creuset casserole dish I bought at an outlet in Florida years ago (a nod to the orange Le Creuset dutch ovens featured in Julie & Julia). Let’s call it an homage to French cuisine, southern Gulf Coast tradition, and cinema relating to cooking legends.
The key to this recipe is—if you’ve seen Julie & Julia you already know—butter. Baked Red Snapper is a gluten-free dish that can be adjusted slightly for a low sodium version. I elected not to bake the fillets in parchment paper to keep it really simple, but you can always do that if you want to scale it up.
I’d normally garnish a fish dish with parsley but had none on hand. It adds a nice touch of color on the plate and serves a practical purpose, too. Did you know parsley is good to freshen breath and aids digestion? It’s a vegetable that delivers vitamins A, C and K, folate, potassium, iron, fiber and antioxidants. So feel free to eat that pretty parsley garnish.
With a fish that’s already been filleted, this dish is super easy to prepare, and the recipe will work with similar white fish. If you’ve been afraid of cooking seafood, this year get a good Red Snapper fillet and be fearless—orange Le Creuset dish totally optional.
Baked Red Snapper
- 1 ½ lb Red Snapper, skin removed about 3-4 fillets
- ¼ C butter
- 2 TBSP lemon juice freshly squeezed, about ½ lemon
- 1 TBSP onion
- ½ to 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp paprika
- lemon wedges, tartar sauce, parsley springs optional
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Finely chop onion.
- Grease the cooking dish with butter (or other cooking spray) and place fish in dish.
- Melt ¼ cup butter, then add lemon juice, onion, salt, pepper and paprika.
- Carefully pour butter mixture over the fish, and completely coat top of fish.
- Place in oven and bake until flesh separates easily with a fork (25 to 35 minutes, depending upon thickness of filets).
- OPTIONAL: cut remaining ½ lemon into wedges and trim parsley sprigs for garnish.