NORTHERN RED SNAPPER
Genus: Lutjanus Species: campechanus
John, which is really a common take on red snapper cooked with tomatoes.
The red snapper is, of course, a highly prized food fish on the Gulf. When going shopping, you'll find a lot of confusion on just what fish really is a red snapper.
With snapper, there are many names for the same fish -- and many fish by the same name. (Would that be 108 species to the power of the number of names each?)
RULE TWO - See rule one. Cook what's good and fresh, make the dish fit the ingredient. And use what's fresh!
The Laws Of Fresh Fish...
|GFR (1) Whole, that's the way to buy|
fish. You can tell what you got, and
tell if it's fresh!
GFR (1) Buy a whole fish. That way you can see what you are getting.
|Here's looking at you, kid!|
The eyes should be bright!
GFR (3) Gills -- yes, the red things. If they are bright red, that's good. If they are a dull reddish brown color, that's not good. If they have been removed, you can bet they were not bright red when taken out.
|This pompano's gills and eye are not perfect |
and bright. He is a Gulf Coast Gourmet reject!
(a) If you must buy fillets, buy them with the skin on, so you have a fighting chance at figuring out what kind of fish this is.
(b) If you buy fillets, and there are "gaps" between the muscular striations in the fish, the fish is not fresh.
|Fish can't smell you, and you should not be able to smell them|
If it smells "fishy," get something else.
The red snapper called for here is known, variously, as the Northern red snapper, sow snapper, rat snapper, mule snapper, chicken snapper, Gulf red snapper, American red snapper, Caribbean red snapper, Pensacola red snapper, Mexican red snapper, red snapper, mutton snapper (Florida Museum of Natural History, Ichthyology Department).
All of these fish below are some kind of "snapper", which points up two problems. First, the worldwide fish industry has a terrible time telling you -- honestly and frankly -- what kind of fish you are buying and eating. Like the dolphin/Mahi-mahi, the name changes from place to place.
Second, there are folks in the fish restaurant world who will actually ---- lie to you. I always, always try to buy fish whole. That way, I can see what I am getting. I am able to look at all of the indicators of freshness. The plastic-wrapped, skinless fillets stacked up on top of ice in the cooler case just don't get the job done. Know what you are getting and know
how fresh it is. You may not be able to buy chickens with their feet and heads attached anymore, but try to buy whole fish, so you can see what you are getting!!
What about those cute little fillets of fish stacked up in the grocery store? Those are fresh snapper, right?
Actually, you don't know what they are, and short of a scientific test of the muscle tissue of the fish, no one else knows for sure, either. If you could touch the fillet (impossible, because it is packed like a chunk of hamburger or chicken) you would see that the dent left by your finger remained -- a sure sign it has been frozen.
Fish in the grocery don't come "New York Dressed." You can't know what you are buying. Are there regulations about importing fish, what they are, how to label them? Sure, and there are regulations that forbid driving cattle down Canal Street in New Orleans on Sundays, too.
There are, however, some interesting regulations swirling around red snapper.
|Scientific Name: Lutjanus griseus |
Common Name: Gray Snapper
Market Name: Snapper
Back in the day, when there were shrimp boats all over the coast (see blog entry shrimp), every self-respecting snapper fisherman knew that any shortage of snapper was caused by that evil death machine that is a shrimp trawl.
Now that there are a fraction of the number of shrimp boats in the Gulf that there once were, a shortage of snapper does not find such an easy scapegoat.