Grilled Whole Snapper with Ginger Cucumber Salsa

Total Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 whole red snapper (about 6 pounds total), gutted and scaled
  • 1 orange
  • 6 whole cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 small cucumber (about 4 ounces), preferably seedless
  • ½ serrano or jalapeño pepper
  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
  • ½-inch knob ginger, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Directions:

  • Pat the fish dry all over.
  • Cut the orange in half, then into ½-inch slices (depending on the size of the cavity, you may need to cut the orange slices in half again).
  • Peel and smash the garlic cloves.  
  • Divide the garlic and the orange slices evenly among the fish, stuffing them into the cavities but taking care not to over-stuff or they'll fall out and scorch on the grill. 
  • Generously brush or rub the outsides of the fish with olive oil -- about ¼ cup total -- and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. 
  • If your cucumber has seeds, halve it lengthwise and scoop out the soft center. Cut it into a very small dice (about ⅛-inch).
  • Cut the serrano or jalapeño pepper in half lengthwise, remove the seeds (unless you want extra heat, in which case, leave the seeds) and pith, and finely dice. Grate the ginger and combine in a bowl with the cucumber, cilantro, pepper, ¼ cup olive oil, lime juice, and ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
  • Prepare half the grill with a moderately high flame (err closer to medium if your grill runs very hot) and leave the other half without direct heat.
  • Once the grate is hot, thoroughly clean -- take a little extra care here since fish is delicate and can fall apart if it sticks to the grill.
  • Grill the fish directly over the flame and don’t touch them for at least 6 minutes (closer to 8 minutes if the fish are larger). They’ll cling to the grill if you try to flip them too soon but are ready when you can easily slip a spatula underneath and they have evenly, lightly charred skin.
  • Carefully flip the fish. This is best done with a spatula in one hand and tongs or a grill fork in the other -- you want to make sure you don’t beat up the fish or lose the aromatics to your grill.
  • Continue to cook over the flame for another 6 to 8 minutes, until you can easily pierce the flesh near the spine with a fork. If it’s not cooked through, move the fish to the cooler part of your grill, cover, and check on it after 3 minutes.
  • Transfer the fish to your serving platter and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Whole fish is best eaten family-style, so pass out forks and let everyone dive in.
  • Serve the ginger-cucumber salsa either on the side, alongside the lime wedges, or spooned directly on top of the fish.
  • TIP: for extra heat, leave the jalapeño seeds in.