Diary of a Foodie

Mesquite-Grilled Red Snapper With Fresh Herbs

Diary of a Foodie: Season Two: Baja: The New Provence

  • Active Time:20 min
  • Start to Finish:1 1/4 hr
February 2008
For sources for the mesquite wood chips, sel de Guérande, and fresh epazote, see cooks’ note, below.
  • 2 cups mesquite wood chips
  • 4 (1-lb) cleaned whole red snappers (with head and tail)
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt (preferably sel de Guérande) plus additional for sprinkling
  • 8 (4-inch) sprigs epazote
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 8 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 fresh serrano chiles, quartered lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Equipment:

    a 22-inch kettle grill; a large chimney starter
  • Garnish:

    lime wedges; extra-virgin olive oil (preferably lemongrass)
  • Soak wood chips in a large bowl of water at least 30 minutes, then drain well.
  • Pat fish dry, including cavities. Sprinkle cavities with sea salt, then evenly distribute herb sprigs and chiles in each cavity. Rub outside of each fish with some of oil.
  • Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in middle.
  • Prepare grill for cooking: Open vents on bottom of grill. Light chimney starter full of charcoal (preferably hardwood). When coals are lit, dump them out across bottom rack. When charcoal turns grayish white (start checking coals after 15 minutes), the grill will be at its hottest. It will be the right heat (medium-hot) when you can hold your hand 5 inches above the rack for 3 to 4 seconds. Spread drained wood chips evenly over coals.
  • Oil grill rack, then grill fish 2 minutes. Using a long spatula, turn fish over and grill 2 minutes more.
  • Transfer fish to a 17- by 12-inch shallow baking pan in 1 layer and roast in oven until just cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer fish to serving plates, then drizzle with remaining oil and season with sea salt.
Cooks' note: Mesquite wood chips are available at specialty foods shops and hardware stores; sel de Guérande is available at specialty foods shops; fresh epazote is available at Latino markets.
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