Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Whole Red Emperor Baked in a Salt Dough

Red Emperor ( also known as Emperor Red Snapper in the UK and Emperor Snapper in the USA and South Africa), is a superb eating fish with juicy white flesh. You'll find Red Emperor in tropical waters  from Shark Bay in Western Australia to Moreton Bay in Queensland. Red Emperor prefer coral reefs and soft bottoms to depths of about 100 metres. You tend to find find mature fish  in deeper waters and swift-running channels in reefs while younger specimens frequent mangrove lined estuaries.

The Red Emperor is a hard fighting trophy fish which responds to a wide range of bait including squid, pilchards (pillies) and fresh flesh. Most experienced fishermen say the key to catching Red Emperor is to get your bait on the bottom with a paternoster rig with large hooks and large baits.50lb or more line in mono and heavier in braid is recommended.

When you bring home your whole Red Emperor, try this fabulous recipe courtesy of the Sydney Fish Market.

Serves 8

1 x 3.5kg Red Emperor, scaled, gilled and gutted
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lemon, sliced
1 brown onion, sliced
6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley (see notes)
6 sprigs dill (see notes)
Steamed vegetables or green salad, to serve
Salt Dough
1.5kg flour
1.2kg table salt
1.5 litres water

Make the Salt Dough: combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add ¾ of the water and mix well, if it is too dry, add extra water to bring the dough together, it should be quite firm. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 210°C.

Lightly flour the bench and roll out the dough to a 1cm-thick rectangle.

Rinse the belly cavity of the fish and pat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle cavity well with salt and pepper and place lemon, onion, parsley and dill inside. Place the fish in the centre off the dough and wrap it up, pinching together any cracks or seams.

Place on a baking paper-lined baking tray and cook for about 40 minutes, until the pastry has set and begun to colour. Remove from oven and rest in a warm place for at least 45 minutes.

Break open the dough at the table and gently spoon the fish onto plates. Serve with steamed vegetables or a green salad.

Notes: The dough can be prepared up to a week in advance and kept wrapped and refrigerated. Use whatever green herbs you like to stuff the belly cavity.

Alternative Species: Emperor, Goldband Snapper, Pearl Perch, Queenfish, Snapper.

Recipe and pics courtesy of the Sydney Fish Market.

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