Another recipe for snapper
By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
June 27, 2003
Cooking what one has gathered from the wild goes back, of course, to before human beings were civilized. And ever since that first man or woman scraped some of the light colored mineral from the cave wall, the stuff we now call salt, and sprinkled it onto a chunk of meat before roasting it over a campfire, mankind has experimented profusely with preparing food.
Profuse is not a strong enough word to characterize our relentless rearrangement of food ingredients. There is nothing left on earth that we have not sprinkled onto our food, or mixed with it, or boiled it in, or marinated it in, or drank along with it, or served it on. What we haven't done to food is not possible to do.
And with devilish smiles we write down every one of our attacks on food and call these accounts recipes. Some of these recipes yield stomp down good food composites. And, conversely, because recipes are legion, plenty of them result in concoctions that would choke a goat.
It seems that every breathing human being who can write has authored at least two cookbooks. If you want to make money as a writer, just get yourself a catchy title and show a steaming pot of something, anything, on a bright cover and bingo, you're a successful author. Everyone will buy a cookbook. The only requirement a cookbook buyer imposes is that it not look like the last one he or she bought.
Having addressed my observations about the myriad of cook books that clutter the environment, I hasten to reveal that I have discovered a new recipe for grilling fish. No, this will not inspire a cookbook. If I wrote one I would have to put a copy in my book case, which stands here beside my computer desk. And if one more cookbook is squeezed in there, the book case will surely fall and injure me, and endanger my computer.
This recipe comes from South Louisiana where arguably the finest food in the world is created and where I was visiting this week eating some of it.
Grilling saltwater fish fillets is customarily done by leaving the skin and scales on the fillet and laying the piece skin-side down onto a charcoal or gas grill. The upper (flesh) side is then basted with whatever one desires as the grill turns the fish into a flaky, succulent delight. The hardened skin remains on the fish when served and becomes somewhat of a "plate" from which the tasty bites are plucked.
The latest on fillet grilling is a mixture (of course) that is used for the basting. Well, more than basting the fillet, this is like coating it; plastering it on if you will. This works on snapper fillets or those of redfish or similar species that you grill skin-side down.
Measure four cups of thousand island dressing and dump it into a mixing bowl. Throw in one cup of Italian bread crumbs and half a cup of Parmesan cheese. Drop in a big pinch of ground cayenne pepper. Mix thoroughly into a thick, grainy paste. Spatula this stuff onto each fillet, coating them some three eighths of an inch thick. Lay circles of juicy pineapple slices atop the fillets and your fish is ready for the grill.
Cook slowly on low heat until the meat flakes and reaches the texture you like. The thousand island dressing and pineapple in the crust gives up moisture grudgingly, and so cooking time may be double that of typical fillet grilling.
I prefer a bit thinner coating of the thousand island mixture so the fish cooks somewhat quicker and the crust is crumbly. The thinner crust will have no taste of the dressing and lets plenty of the delicate fish flavor come through.
Tip: If your fillets are thick, say from a 6-pound fish or larger, slice them down to no more than an inch thick to lessen grilling time and increase flakiness. And if everyone at the table enjoys a little excitement in their dishes, go heavier on the cayenne pepper in the mix.