Whole snapper with ginger and scallions.

I have a few favorite people in this world, who probably don’t know they hold such a place in my heart.  There’s Dee, at Highland Company Gourmet Market, who raises her own cattle, cattle that provide the best beef I’ve ever tasted.  There’s Carol, at La Maison du Cheese (yes, that’s “The House of Cheese” in French, err, French-American) who bakes like a dream, a really, really delicious dream, things like croissants with brie and roasted pear inside, and pecan sticky buns.


There’s Emil and Joe at Maresca and Sons Fine Meats, who have the best pork belly and sausages.  And David and Patty at Podere di Melo farm, who have the chickens that I’m forever waxing sentimental over, the only chickens that I eat anymore, whose bones make for the best, happiest stock.  There’s crisp, sweet, unbelievably good apples up the road at Solebury Orchards, and even more a little further, at Manoff Market Gardens.


There’s the gang at Bobolink Dairy, who are over 2 hours away from me, but whose cheese makes every mile of the drive worth it, and whose roasted garlic and duck fat bread is liable to make me weep the whole way home.  There’s Blue Moon Acres, the specialty organic lettuce farm that opens for only a few hours each week, and is known for providing some of the best NYC restaurants with their greens, the farm that I make it to practically every week despite the time constraints, and whose lettuce makes everyone I feed it to do a double take, because Really? Is lettuce supposed to taste this good?


And there’s The Seafood of Buckingham Valley, or Buckingham Seafood, as everyone calls it.  It’s almost indecent, really, for us to be able to buy such great seafood, fresh as can be, out in the country where we’re already spoiled with pastured eggs and heirloom pork, and all the fresh apple cider we could ask for.  But, thankfully, this isn’t just a farm-area, this is a foodie-area, and we want it all, the best of everything, and (it never ceases to make me smile) there’s wonderful people willing to give it to us.

Snapper, covered

Everyone who lives here and likes fish talks about Buckingham Seafood, and how dedicated the family-run business is to their product.  They love fish, that’s for certain.  Sometimes, we’ll go there and Nick will tell us that they’ve been restraining themselves from eating all of the tuna that day, cut from a fatty piece of belly, and that we’d be crazy not to buy it while it’s still there.

Snapper, sauced

Their whole fish is always as fresh as can be, with clear, glossy eyes, and the smell of sea, not fish.  Jim and I make a lot of whole fish, it’s a weeknight go-to meal, and though it may seem daunting if you’ve never cooked whole fish before, it’s really easy, well, maybe not easier than sauteing a fillet, but cheaper than fillets, and worth learning.  The main thing, I think, is to make sure that the first few times you try your hand at whole fish, you’re cooking for people who you don’t feel uncomfortable telling them there might be a few bones to pick through.  Because while it’s easy to fillet a whole fish, it can make you a little bit anxious the first time, and unless you’re with friends, you’re liable to sit there picking out bones long enough that the fish turns cold. After a few times, though, you’ll get the hang of it, and know just where most of the bones lie, and how to fillet around them, or where to quickly pick them out of the fillet.


Steamed with ginger and scallions was the first preparation that Jim and I ever used for whole fish, and it’s a simple winner.  With nothing more than pantry staples and a whole fish (snapper or black bass are good choices) you can put together a delicious meal in about 30 minutes.  We usually serve this with plain white rice on the side, sauced with some of the liquid that remains in the baking dish, but I’ll also braise some green beans with garlic and ginger if I’m feeling energetic enough at 8 o’clock on a weeknight, the time we usually get around to making dinner.

Whole Snapper with Ginger and Scallions

But before you go running off to find a local fish market, I want to thank you for your comments last post.  They cheered me up during rough nights, when I read through your condolences, and it was wonderful to hear how many of you would like an onion and peanut butter sandwich!

Whole Snapper with Ginger and Scallions

from Gourmet (oh, sadness) February 2006

1 (3-lb) whole red snapper or black bass, cleaned, leaving head and tail intact
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bunch scallions, white and pale green parts cut into very thin 2-inch strips and greens reserved separately
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin matchsticks
3 tablespoons light soy sauce (preferably Pearl River Bridge brand)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Put baking dish in roasting pan.

Rinse fish and pat dry, then rub inside and out with salt. Transfer to baking dish and sprinkle with scallion strips (white and pale green) and ginger.

Stir together soy sauce and sugar until sugar is dissolved, then pour over fish. Add enough boiling-hot water to roasting pan to reach halfway up side of baking dish. Oil a large sheet of heavy-duty foil, then tent foil (oiled side down) over fish and tightly seal around roasting pan. Carefully transfer roasting pan to oven and bake until fish is just cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes.

While fish bakes, cut enough scallion greens diagonally into very thin slices to measure 1/2 cup (reserve remainder for another use).

Just before serving, remove foil from fish and sprinkle with scallion greens. Heat oil over high heat until just smoking. Remove from heat and immediately pour oil over scallion greens and fish.

16 thoughts on “Whole snapper with ginger and scallions.”

  1. I am jealous of all of your farms. I’ve never cooked whole fish but I LOVE eating it in restaurants!

    By the way, we’re dreaming up a little monthly cooking project in honor of Gourmet—I hope you’ll join us!

  2. I wish I had access to such amazing farm fresh bounty! I’ve prepared whole sides of fish but never really whole fish except for trout. I’m inspired to give it a try!

  3. Yes, yes, YES! That’s how fish should be served whole. I love this hot oil in the end method and I must try my hand it….well done, I’m hungry again.

  4. I’ve never really thought of the Bucks-Hunterdon area as being a “foodie” area.
    I just think we are blessed with a large number of sources for excellent food.
    Still would like you to visit Slack Farm…when you go to Buckingham Seafood, you’re just two miles away. You’ll be thrilled with Wanda Slack’s enthusiasm for her husband’s produce.
    And, she bakes mean pies (apple and pumpkin this time of year) as well as zucchini loaves.

    1. I actually got to Slack’s this weekend, finally. Was meaning to write you about it. I absolutely loved it and couldn’t believe they still had some corn and tomatoes. I’ll have to pick up some zucchini loaves next time.

      I feel like it is a foodie-area of sorts, or maybe it’s just that all I do is gab about food, but it seems that I meet food-oriented people out here all the time.

  5. Hi Robin,
    This looks fantastic. We do a similar thing sometime, inspired by the book hot sour salt sweet. They will add some chopped coriander root and some peppercorns to the mix, and wrap the whole in thing banana leaf, which I think adds a nice aroma (or at least looks nice!).

    Great looking blog! I’m really glad to have found it. Lots of stuff right up my alley.

    P.S. we have the same little cutting board. (it’s under our sliders).

  6. While I agree that Buckingham Seafood is good I do nonetheless feel that there is a better place, Heller’s Seafood in Warrington I think tops Buckingham for quality as well as selection….

  7. Oh, Heller’s is also *excellent*; it’s just a little farther from us, and a tad pricier. And though it certainly does have a wider selection than Buckingham, I don’t agree that the fish itself is better. Not worse, necessarily — Heller’s really is a great shop — but so is Buckingham, and really you have to go fish by fish.

    1. There was a time when Buckingham Seafood was no great shakes and we traveled the extra distance to Heller’s. After all, ask any chef at any of the top restaurants in Bucks where they source their fish and they’ll say Hellers. Entering Heller’s is like entering a museum of fine seafood.
      But, things have definitely improved at Buckingham and gas is more expensive than it was a few years ago, so we’ve settled into a routine of buying our fish from Buckingham. We usually also pick up some smoked fish there (although they don’t smoke their own fish) and a container of one of their chowders or soups (the she-crab soup and crab gazpacho are our favorites).

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