Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Which Red Snapper Was Better?

All of my favorite vacation spots are on the coast. For my past two spring breaks we've been able to vacation on the Gulf Coast, a completely new experience for this West Coast girl. I had no idea that sugar-sand beaches existed this side of the Caribbean.

Last year while vacationing at Sea Grove Beach, we picked up two pieces of grouper at a local fish market, I waved my magic wand, and the husband and I had the most amazing restaurant meal without the restaurant.

I'm a firm believer that if you start with delicious, natural ingredients, you are going to come up with an amazing meal. With these ingredients, how could I go wrong?

So after a few appetizers and happy fiddlin' in the kitchen, we had a memorable meal. And isn't that what meals should be? Memorable?

This year I hoped to recreate a memorable experience for the family. But this time we picked up 2 1/2 pounds of red snapper at that same fish market. Why red snapper? Is it because I'm a fish connoisseur? Um, no. I chose red snapper solely because behind the glass of the fish case, it just looked like a perfect blend of the salmon that I'm used to cooking at home and the swordfish that I'd order at a restaurant. I've had red snapper in restaurants before, but never when it had been caught six hours before serving.

Mom and I washed and chopped. And I made a salsa with the following ingredients:

3/4 cup diced red onion
3/4 cup diced mango
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 small diced tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 yellow pepper diced
juice of one lime
salt and pepper

The man at the fish market directed me to cut the fish into serving sizes before baking. That was wonderful advice. His suggestion of cooking the fish at 325 for 15 minutes was not accurate at all, which resulted in mushy, overdone rice. Next time, I'd cook the snapper at 375 for 20-25 minutes, or until it's no longer pink in the middle.

Before we left home, I bought a delightful seasoning in a grinder called Carolina Seafood Blend from Fresh Market which contained an assortment of spices including allspice, cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves, and chili flakes. I dusted the snapper with the seasoning blend and layered wedges of sliced red onions and lemons atop the fish and baked it until it was eventually cooked through. Topped with my homemade salsa, it was a delicious entree. We'll call it Tropical Snapper.

Note that this picture was of the husband's plate, the picture taken as an afterthought, not necessarily arranged for a picture-perfect blog post. But if it's slopped on a plate by a man, and it still looks good, that's a darn good meal.

I attained my goal. It was a restaurant-worthy meal for the family. And happy birthday, husband!

The next evening we went to a local restaurant called "Fish Out of Water".

Don't ask me how you can go to a restaurant on the Gulf, with an ocean view, just before sunset, and not order fish, but three out of the five in our family managed to do so. I did not. What did I order? The Red Snapper. "But you had that last night..."

Blah, blah, blah. I'm at the beach. I created an incredible meal with red snapper. Now I wondered, "What would the experts do?"

This red snapper was pan-seared, baked, and served on a bed of cauliflower with a curry sauce, grapes, and raisins. Oh my FREAK! It was amazing.

Of course, I was asked, "Which red snapper was better? Last night's or tonight's?" How can you compare a tropical island entree with an Indian-flavored entree? It's like comparing a chocolate mousse with a creme brulee. They are both delicious for different reasons.

Of course, THIS plate was created for visual appeal. Don't you DARE compare this picture with the picture of MY red snapper. Just know that it was in every way as delicious as mine, but in every way different. That's what I love about food and cooking. You can use the same main ingredients, but with a few twists of a lemon, dashes of spice, and a flare of some beautiful fruit or vegetable that God created, you have a unique masterpiece. A memorable meal.

So, which red snapper was better? It's impossible to tell. Each one was memorable.

And I can tell you that each one was followed by memorable moments.

And one happy girl.

No comments:

Post a Comment