Dinner in the Tropics

January 13, 2016

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The picture’s not so beautiful.  The fish, however, was.  When we found a whole red snapper at the fish market here on St. John yesterday, it started speaking to me. The eyes were clear, the skin glossy, the scent clean and briny.

I’d forgotten how easy it is to cook a whole fish. We rubbed the fish inside and out with salt and then stuffed it with all the aromatics we had on hand. Onions, garlic, thyme, parsley all went into the cavity.  Then we massaged the snapper with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and put it in a roasting pan.  I poured a bit of white wine around it, more for the way it would perfume the air than for any practical purpose. Then we put it into a 425 degree oven for about half an hour.

The aroma of wine and herbs mingled with the scent of the sea as the fish cooked in the oven.  It was the most enticing smell.  When I checked the temperature (the fish was about 3 and a half pounds), it was 135 at the thickest part behind the head.  I let it rest for ten minutes, then sprinkled it with lime juice and took it to the table.

So completely delicious.  And no work at all.

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  • Kate Norfleet says:

    I live on St. John and this is one of my favorite ways to eat snapper here. If you score the fish to the bone it lays down beautifully—I stuff the scores with minced herbs as well. I usually put a lemon over the eye as it roasts to placate my squeamish friends. Plus if you have an old pan you can cover it in foil and do it on the grill which makes clean-up super easy. If you are still on St. John you must go and meet Josephine at Coral Bay Garden Center. We are blessed with a fantastic organic gardener here who supplies us with fresh beautiful greens and tropical vegetables all year long. And soursops and carambolas are ripening now which is another treat. I could go on and on. Cooking and growing are a balm to my soul…as your writing is as well.

    • admin says:

      Hi Kate,
      We’re here for a while – staying with friends – and actually made a salad of Josephine’s greens last night as well. (Sprouts, goat cheese, peppers.) I haven’t been there yet, but will definitely go by in the next few days.
      Please tell me what you do with soursops and carambolas; would love to play around with them. Thanks!

  • Evan L says:

    Sounds awesome. Simple, clean, delicious eating. Yum.

  • Claudia says:

    Hi..I am Claudia, Kate’s sister but I have TONS of carambolas so have experimented in many ways. I have tried juicing but found very acidic fresh so simmered them a bit. Still they were strong and had to be diluted and honey or sugar added for most tastes. It is excellent when combined with orange juice which tends to be sweet. I have tried using them in chutneys and sauces, for roast pork for instance. But the very best thing I have found is to dehydrate them. They lose all bitterness and are more akin to the tartness found in dried apricots..I use them on my yogurt, in salads, oatmeal, or in a fruit mix snack.For a really good carambola though, leave them on tree till orange as the ones in store often are green and very mean.

  • Devon says:

    Thank you for the recipe tale. Stories are easy to remember long after a post has been swallow in the technical black hole.

  • Chrissy says:

    Hi Ruth,

    You probably already know about this place on St. John (and it’s possible it closed since I last visited), but there is a small snack stand called Ms. Vies on the east end of the island, near Hansen Bay. When I went, Ms. Vie was terrific, and the food was low-key and absolutely perfect.

    Enjoy your vacation.

  • Gary Gillman says:

    It all sounds great. The part about lime juice is most salutary. The best fish I ever had in my life was in Marigot, in a bistro attached to a bakery. I think to most Americans or Europeans it’s not an intuitive thing to use (vs. lemon) but this fish was incredibly good. I went up to the kitchen and thanked the harried-looking chef – I guess all good chefs are – and he looked at me in grateful surprise. Some of the best artists in food deliver beautiful things every day because it’s what they do, not necessarily that they are recognized by the official food world for it…

  • Barbara says:

    Ruth – I think that you need to meet up with Kate and Claudia and report back on your meeting and what you ate and talked about! I want to be on St. John right now! Enjoy that beautiful place!