Whole Roast Red Snapper with Tomatoes, Lemon, and Thyme

  • Active Time 5m
  • Total Time 40m

Makes 6 servings

This fish dish--quick, delicious, and presented whole--makes an impact. It requires just 15 minutes of preparation and 30 minutes of cooking time. The ingredients are simple. Just prep the fish, place it in the oven, and--presto!--it actually makes its own colorful sauce, replete with Provencal flavors.
I learned this recipe on my first day working in Michel Guerard's three-star restaurant in France. Toward the end of the morning's preparation, the chef stunned me when he handed me a whole snapper and casually told me to prepare lunch for him and the entire staff. Lunch for the whole staff . . . at Guerard's restaurant? I was, to say the least, terrified. When I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a young French chef showed me the simple preparation for this dish, as well as his method for boning cooked fish. I've made my own adjustments over the years, but this still remains very much as he taught me. The recipe was tested with a 6-pound snapper, but you may also make it with a group of smaller fish, cooking them in the same pan.


  • 1 (6-pound) whole red snapper, cleaned and scaled
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped ripe tomatoes (or use canned tomatoes if ripe are not available)
  • 1 small lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely cracked coriander seeds
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley; plus 2 tablespoons chopped, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil the bottom of a roasting pan

large enough to hold the whole fish. (If necessary, trim the fins with

scissors to get a better fit.) Rinse the red snapper inside and out with

cold running water and pat it dry with paper towels. Slash 4 X's about 1/4

inch deep into the thickest parts on both sides of the fish to ensure even

cooking. Season well with salt and pepper. Place the fish in the roasting

pan, and scatter a few of the shallots and garlic in the cavity.

Strew the tomatoes, lemon, the remaining shallots and garlic, the coriander

seeds, thyme and parsley sprigs over the fish, and drizzle with olive oil.

Cover with aluminum foil.

Roast until the fish is cooked, 35 to 40 minutes. To test the fish for

doneness, make a small incision near the head. It should be just opaque

near the bone. Using 2 large metal spatulas, transfer the fish to a warmed

serving platter. Spoon the vegetable garnish over the fish, sprinkle with

the chopped parsley, and present the whole fish at the table.

TO SERVE: Use a long, thin-bladed knife to cut vertically through the top

fillet to the backbone. Make an incision down the backbone, and remove the

back and dorsal fins. Use a large fork to lift off the 2 portions of the

top fillet and place on warmed dinner plates. Lift off the bone structure

and head and discard. Cut the bottom fillet in half horizontally. Transfer

to dinner plates. Serve with the vegetables.

VARIATIONS: Substitute a whole wild striped bass for the red snapper. Or

use smaller, farm-raised striped bass (about 2 pounds each), cooking the

smaller fish for 20 to 30 minutes.

FLAVOR BUILDING: Nicoise or green olives enhance this dish very well;

use approximately 1 cup pitted olives. Sage, rosemary, and/or thyme may

also be added to taste.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Doubleday. All rights reserved.

RecID 3212

nutrition information per serving

502 calories; 23g total fat; 112mg cholesterol; 201mg sodium; 7g carbohydrates; 1g fiber; 63g protein

These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.

Sign Up for Cooking.com Newsletters Here

Delicious recipes, easy meal ideas and holiday inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Follow Cooking.com