Baked Red Snapper in a Mediterranean Tomato Sauce
This low-calorie version of a Mediterranean-style fish dish (named for my wife, Susan) is actually a combination of two classic snapper presentations. Rouget à l’algéroise is made with a tomato sauce containing fennel and saffron; and rouget à la portugaise uses a fresh tomato sauce made with shallots, garlic, and parsley. Both use considerably more olive oil than I have used here.
When snapper is not available, try another similar size fish, such as bluefish or black sea bass.
* If fennel is not available, either leave it out or use ¼ teaspoon anise seed or fennel seed for a similar flavor.
In French cooking, a point is the amount of powdered spice that can be lifted on the tip (point) of a paring knife and is basically equal to a pinch. The technique is used with strong spices, such as cayenne, which you might not want to get on your fingers.
Total Timeunder 2 hours
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Textureherby, savory, spiced, tangy
- ½ tablespoon olive oil, extra virgin if available
- 4 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced or 6 pounds canned tomatoes, drained and diced
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 small bulb fennel, finely diced*
- 1 pinch saffron
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 10 sprigs parsley, chopped, plus 8 whole sprigs, for garnish
- 1 whole red snapper (4 to 5 pounds)
Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the tomatoes, shallots, garlic, and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften but still have some shape, about 5 minutes. The tomatoes’ excess moisture should have evaporated, but if not, strain and reserve the tomatoes and return the excess liquid to the pan. Cook the liquid over high heat until it is reduced to a syrup. Return the tomatoes to the pan, and season with the saffron, salt, and pepper. Stir in the chopped parsley. (The sauce can be made ahead of time. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate.)
Place a layer of the sauce on a large, deep ovenproof serving platter. Place the fish on the platter and cover all but the head and tail with the remaining sauce. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until a knife penetrates easily to the bone.
Decorate the platter with parsley sprigs and serve.
1988 Richard Grausman