The Emperor’s New Clothes – Red Emperor (Snapper), Pargo Rojo

In our little seaside town of Bexhill-on-Sea we are now lucky enough to have two wonderful fishmongers. As lovers of fish and shellfish we are spoilt for choice. This weekend I decided to try out the new shop, which goes by the enchanting name of The Angry Whelk.

Big Man and I decided to avoid the Valentine’s Day menus in local restaurants. Not from a “bah humbug” point of view, we just decided that we’d rather have a relaxed Sunday at home with the pups and a meal of our choice.

Red Emperor Pargo (10)

The fishmonger had a fantastic display of fish but what really caught my eye was a beautiful red monster. A red snapper, or Red Emperor. It really was huge, far too big for the two of us, but unable to resist a bargain or a challenge I was soon heading home with the beast which weighed about 2kg.

A quick check on the internet told me that if I wanted to cook it whole, it was best to keep it simple with a sauce or something interesting on the side. Am so glad I followed this advice as the cooked dish was incredible. The fish has a meaty texture (perfect for anyone who does not like to grapple with fish bones) and a delicate (not very fishy) flavour. My monster fish would easily have fed 6, so today we’ll be eating leftovers lightly pan fried in olive oil just to warm them through and I’ve also frozen the rest to make a lovely fishy fideua another day.

Red Emperor Pargo (1)

Ingredients (depends on the size of your fish as to how many it will serve)

  • 1 Red Emperor
  • 1 lemon thinly sliced
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley
  • Salt flakes (I used Maldon)
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper

To serve

  • 2 slices of slightly stale sourdough bread (or similar)
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • The grated zest of an unwaxed lemon
  • About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. If your fishmonger has not already cleaned and gutted your fish, you’ll need to do this. I kept the head on as I think it adds flavour but this is personal choice. pat the fish dry with kitchen paper.

Line a large oven dish or tin with aluminium foil – enough to allow you to make a tent around the fish. Drizzle a little olive oil over the foil and rub and place the fish on top.

Season the cavity with salt and pepper and fill it with the lemon slices and the handful of parsley. Season the top of the fish and rub a little olive oil all over it before sealing it up loosely in a parcel.

Cooking time will depend on the size of the fish, mine took just over an hour but you can check that it’s cooked by pulling gently on the fin which is on the side of the body (it will be facing up towards you). As soon as you can pull this away easily, you’re done.

While the fish is cooking make the crouton/gremolata. Cut the bread into small croutons and fry in the olive oil until it is just starting to brown. Add the garlic at this stage and fry until the bread and garlic are golden. Allow to cool slightly and mix with the lemon zest and parsley.

Red Emperor Pargo (3)

When you are ready to serve, peel back the skin from the fish (it is thick and although I generally eat the skin on fish, this time the dish was better without). The fish comes away from the bones easily in large chunks. Serve with the garlicky, lemon croutons and an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Simple to prepare, you’ll dine like royalty….go on, be an Emperor or an Empress in your own lunchtime!


66 thoughts on “The Emperor’s New Clothes – Red Emperor (Snapper), Pargo Rojo

  1. That looks delicious! The red colour has reminded me how much I like Scorpion Fish, which in spite of their toxicity have a lovely creamy delicate flavour. I don’t think Steve Hatt sells them, so I’ll have to look in the Boqueria next week 😉

      1. Ha ha – no probably not, but it’s one of the main ingredients in bouillabaisse. It’s interesting watching the ladies in the Boqueria put on heavy duty gloves before cutting off the toxic bits when selling the fish. They are particularly good – I definitely recommend you try Escórpora when you get back to Spain 😉

      2. You definitely might have had it in bouillabaisse or fish soup, but it’s fantastic cooked in the oven like your Red Emperor or on a barbecue 🙂

  2. I do believe this one of the yummiest seafood dishes I have seen! I do not live by the sea and envy those who do but every so often we get good snapper at our local market and this would be the perfect recipe to use. Thanks.

  3. Love red snapper,Tanya,though we don’t see it much anymore. It was a favorite of Dad’s. He’d grill it no matter how bad the weather. I bet your crouton/gremolata is the perfect accompaniment for the fish. It’s a blending of two of my favorites. Now, aren’t you glad you bought that fish, large as it was? You treated it far better than anyone who came after you would have. 🙂

    1. It was the first time I’d seen it locally. I think my dad would have taken it outside and put it on the bbq too J My pals were laughing at me regarding how big it was but last night we had some of the leftovers dipped in panko crumbs and quickly pan fried in olive oil until crispy with a salad – perfect J

  4. Emerging ‘weepy’ from Roger’s current brilliant post it is beautiful to plan my own next Red Emperor meal in a happier mood: you were able to buy a perfect ingredient and knew what to do with it and I do not think one mouthful of the said sea monster will be wasted . . . since my closes fish monger is over 50 kms away I have turned that unenviable shade of green again . . .

    1. Yes Roger’s post was beautiful! We are so very lucky in both our little homes to have access to great fish and to locally grown organic meat and veg. A true privilege ☺

    1. Ah thanks Roger – funnily enough we had been out a few nights before to a local restaurant that did a tasting menu of what was going to be on offer for Valentine’s Day (coincidence, not planned!). It was ok, a fun evening, but even the folk we were with said that we would have eaten better at our house!

  5. I know I don’t eat enough fish and this looks so fabulous I’m trying to work out why not. Enjoy your massive fish!
    We avoid eating out on recognised ‘occasions’ as we feel it is never as nice an experience as a special meal at home. I think you proved that.

  6. You were correct about the cooking method, Papa would have BBQd and I would have prepared chopped shallot and parsley, with optional lemon wedges. We shall try your way next time Angry Whelk has red snapper.

  7. I come from a family of fishermen/women. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents beach fishing while we fossicked around in rock pools. I was raised on fresh caught fish. Australian salmon season brings large fish to the Southern hemisphere and the beach fishermen had to contend with the commercial fishermen who make their money from the salmon runs. Learning how to catch and prep fish for the table was part of my right of passage. Sometimes my uncles would head out in one of their respective boats and come back with something more exotic than whiting, bream and salmon (beach fish) and snapper and nannygai flashed flamingo red and tasted like the tang of the sea. I remember fish. Once you taste fish prepared simply and well you always remember fish.

      1. Hugs Ms Chica. The weather is starting to turn here. I am starting to glance over at Brunhilda in a nostalgic way and Stevie-boy is off cutting up the last of our last years log pile for this year. 2 more truck loads delivered in a week or so and then it is officially time to think about prepping her ready for her 7 months of hard slog. I can’t wait. I LOVE winter and cold and no El Nino. “Bring it ON!” 🙂

      2. We have a lot in common but a lot different too – I can’t bear the cold (although I do appreciate the cold, bright, crisp sunshiney days we have had in Bexhill this week). I love the heat that burns your nostrils when you breathe in and lets you smell the hot, dry earth!

  8. I’m more than a little envious of your local fishmongers. They are as rare as hen’s teeth here. We’re stuck with the supermarkets and their less than stellar offerings.

  9. You did the best thing with Valentine’s Day – keep it simple and quiet. We did the same and it was lovely. And the fish – ah wonderful. I’m working towards cooking whole fish and this is a good prompt. Delish.

  10. woow …. red snapper one of my favorite fish especially when cooked with spices recipe field, if it is ripe not feel the smell of fish that tasted fragrant spices with fish meat is very tasty.

  11. I have been in the UAE for almost 2 years now and I still struggle with seafood!
    I love the side you served the red snapper with
    If I can find a good redsnapper at the fish market next week and I’ll definitely give this a go
    Thank you for the inspiration

  12. Love red snapper,Tanya,though we don’t see it much anymore. It was a favorite of Dad’s. He’d grill it no matter how bad the weather. I bet your crouton/gremolata is the perfect accompaniment for the fish. It’s a blending of two of my favorites. Now, aren’t you glad you bought that fish, large as it was? You treated it far better than anyone who came after you would have.

I love to hear what you think, please leave me a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s