GRILLED RED SNAPPER WITH CARAMELIZED PINEAPPLE & GREEN ONION & CHARRED PEPPER BUTTER
Living in Texas for four years made it nearly impossible to avoid developing an appreciation for fresh from the Gulf of Mexico red snapper. Famously served blackened, the heat can cause eyes to water and noses to run. Nonetheless, this flakey, tender fish is worth ordering in any form it shows up on restaurant menus. This preparation is more subtle in its heat, but still has a fiery nuance. Even my kids beg to keep this crispy skinned, slightly sweet, hot and spicy tropical topped white fleshed mild ocean fish, on the Weston table dinner rotation. The grilling master and celebrity chef, Bobby Flay, inspired this adaptation of his recipe. The butter can be made ahead, even frozen a week in advance, which turns this dinner into a weeknight healthy, fast, and fight at the table for the biggest hunk of snapper supper. Served side by side with a margarita, it is a festive treat for weekend gatherings.
Nota bene: Ask the fishmonger to descale the snapper and cut even pieces to ensure even cooking time. If serrano peppers are unavailable, use jalapeño or fresno peppers instead. Uncovering the refrigerated fish an hour or two before cooking helps the fish to dry out just enough to make the fish brown and crisp easily. Scoring the back of the fish on the diagonal and then like a tic tac toe grid keeps the skin from seizing when the fish hits the blazing hot grill. Pre-cored and peeled pineapple makes preparation easy.
8 filets of red snapper, skin on, scales removed
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 serrano chiles
2 pineapples, cored & sliced into 1" rings
Canola oil spray
Sprinkling of turbinado sugar
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 green onions, thinly sliced
Pinch of chile de arbol (or guajillo or cayenne)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lime
1. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a half sheet baking tray. Dry the filets with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator. One to two hours before grilling the fish, remove the plastic wrap (but leave in the refrigerator) to dry the fish out a bit.
2. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium heat. Grill the chiles until they are softened and blistered all over.
3. Spray the pineapple rings with the canola oil and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Place on the grill or grill pan and cook until pineapple is caramelized, about 7 minutes total. Remove and let cool.
4. Roughly chop half of the pineapple and one chile, and put in the bowl of a food processor with the butter and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Process until almost smooth. Add two of the sliced green onions and the chile de arbol. Process just to combine.
5. Transfer to a glass bowl, cover, and refrigerate until firm (at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours). Let the butter mixture warm slightly before grilling the fish.
6. For the pineapple relish, finely dice the remaining pineapple and chile. In a bowl, combine the pineapple, chile, green onion, olive oil, lime juice, and some salt and pepper.
7. Increase the heat of the grill or the grill pan to high. Generously spray each of the filets with canola oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
8. Place each fish filet flesh side down on a very clean grate and grill until toasty brown but not charred. At this point the fish should move easily with a fish spatula without the flesh sticking to the grill, about 3 minutes.
9. Flip and hold the filet down with a spatula to prevent the skin from seizing and shrinking too much (about 15 seconds). Smear some of the pineapple butter on the flesh side and grill for another 3 minutes, or until the skin is crispy and easily moves from the grill.
10. Transfer the fish to a platter, top with a bit of the pineapple butter and finish with the pineapple relish.