Roasted Whole Snapper with Jicama Ceviche

I've been thinking about the concept of this one for a few days, ever since I found some Sicilian moro blood oranges at a produce store. I knew I wanted to do a blood orange martini, and then a ceviche-type side, with a good fish as an entrée. I found whole lane snapper at a fish place and had the fishmonger remove the scales and gills so I could cook it in one piece. Lane snapper are related to red snapper, and this was in great, fresh shape (if not fresh, lane snapper can get a little mushy). I was hoping for whole yellowtail, which is my favorite, but I couldn't find any, just some mangled fillets at one store. Really, though, all snapper tastes similar and I don't think there's a bad snapper out there, especially if it's fresh.

I was also thinking of doing a real fish or shellfish ceviche, but decided to carve up a jicama and use that in place of meat. Jicama is a starchy, carby root, so it wouldn't really get chemically "cooked" as the proteins in fish would through the ceviche, but jicama is pretty good raw -- sort of like a moist potato taste with the texture of an apple. It probably tastes and feels closer to daikon radish than anything else, but maybe a bit sweeter. With the citrus and cilantro, I think it worked really well, even though calling it "ceviche" was a bit of a conceit on my part.

First, I cut a couple blood orange slices for martini garnish, then juiced them for the martinis and the ceviche.

For the martinis I used vodka, ice, a shaker, the strained blood orange juice, and some simple syrup (simmer a cup of water and a cup of sugar until completely dissolved, cool, and it can be stored in the fridge until the end of time). Recipe is: 1 part juice, 1 part simple syrup, and about 4 parts vodka. Serve in a chilled or frosty martini glass.

Next, for the ceviche I juiced three limes, adding to the blood orange juice.

Then, I removed some zest from the limes and blood orange, which will be stuffed in the fish later with some cilantro and onions.

I cut and peeled the jicama and then mandolined into matchsticks

Then, tomatoes seeded and diced. Red onions sliced very thin. Roasted jalapeños seeded and chopped. Cilantro chopped. These will be added with kosher salt, the citrus juice, a slug of olive oil, and some beer.

Wine would have been more authentic, but I think there's enough crispness with the jicama and citrus. Beer is a little earthier. So, this is tossed in the fridge for at least an hour.

You can see why snapper get their name. They are ambush hunters, jumping out of reefs to snatch up an unsuspecting meal

The body cavity gets stuffed with the orange/lime zest, some cilantro, some sliced onions, kosher salt, and black pepper.

The skin gets scored every couple inches -- snapper skin is prone to shrinking and causing the meat to curl. Covered with a bit of olive oil and with a touch of beer (again for the graininess), then the fish is wrapped in banana leaves.

Into a 375 degree oven. I was shooting for 20-30 minutes for the fish, which was around 2 pounds, but it ended up being more like 45. I could have probably used a 400 degree oven instead. When the thick part of the fillet is just starting to come off the bone, it can come out.

Yeah, the face looks a little ugly. But the meat is very, very nicely cooked, it just slides off the bone, and I don't plate the whole fish.

We used some strips of banana leaves, put the fillet on those, then the jicama ceviche over the top.

Overall, it was really good. The purpose of the banana leaves is traditionally to steam the fish, but also to get some of the leaf flavor in there. I think that probably over-succeeded. I got a pretty noticeable background taste of banana leaf, which wasn't bad, but probably more flavor than I intended. I don't know if I bumped up the temperature and lowered the cooking time if that would have added more flavor or less. I think next time I try something like this, I'll probably use a small piece of banana leaf under the fish, then wrap in foil, or maybe parchment paper en paupiette. Still, the fish was tender and flavorful, I loved the jicama citrus, and Christey liked the blood orange martinis.

Been a rough but productive day...

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