Cooking and Serving a Whole Fish

This red snapper was about 3 lbs and came from the store dressed and scaled.

I wanted to make New England Clam Chowder but my recipe calls for fish stock.  I could buy fish stock but it’s not the same and I don’t make chowder all that often.  So this would be a 3 part recipe.

I found some nice red snappers at the fish market and bought two.  I would serve them for dinner and then reclaim the bones and heads for making stock.  Then I would make the chowder with that stock.

Serving a whole fish is rare in the United States and one could easily be intimidated by the prospect but it is not that hard and can make for a special presentation.

Cut diagonal slits in the fish right through to the bone.

Begin by cutting slits in the fish on both sides.  Cut them through the skin and flesh to the bone.  Season the fish with salt and pepper, both inside the fish and in the slits.

Make a paste of parsley, capers, garlic and a little olive oil. Chop them all and salt them as you chop so they grind into a paste.

Chop parsley, capers, garlic and olive oil into a paste using salt to blend them.


 Spread the paste over the outside of the fish pressing it into the slits.


Stand the fish up on a sheet pan, spreading it open if necessary to get it to stand up.  Roast it in a hot oven (400°) for about 30 minutes.  When you start to smell the warm delicious aroma in the house it’s probably done.

Stand the fish up on a sheet pan, spreading open if necessary. Roast at 400 for 30 minutes.

When the fish is ready, simply slide a knife behind the gills, slicing under the skin toward the tail.  You will feel your way with the knife so that it slides over the bones below.  Lift the filet from the fish and then pick up the tail and the entire spine and bones will pull away, along with the head and you are left with the bottom filet.

Slide a knife under the filet but over the bones from gills to tail, then left out the tail, bones, and head.

Put the filets on a platter and drizzle with fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Don’t forget to save the bones and head for making fish stock…that’s the next posting and it’s surprisingly easy.  Fresh stock is one of those things that makes home cooked food taste better than store-bought!



  1. Did you purposely take every photo of the fish from such an angle that it looked like it was staring directly at the camera!? That almost made me want to eat fish. hahaha

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