Red snapper and other snappers

Other Names: Huachinango (Mexico); kókkinos louti nos (Greek); lutiano rosso (Italian); nordlig snapper (Danish); pargo del Golfo (Spanish); roter schnapper (German); tarumi feudai (Japanese); vivaneau campèche (French). Hawaiian red snapper: Onaga (Japanese); ruby
snapper; ula‘ula (Hawaiian). Jobfish: Gray snapper; uku (Hawaiian). Kawago snapper: Spangled emperor. Pink snapper: Crimson or rose jobfish; opakapaka (Hawaiian). Vermilion snapper: B-line snapper. Lutjanidae.

Top: Vermillion Snapper.
Bottom: American Red Snapper

General Description: Hundreds of species of snappers, named after their snapping teeth, are found in the western Atlantic, with closely related fish in the eastern Pacific. Magnificent true American red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus_) are much sought after in the Caribbean and along the American mid-Atlantic coast for their fine texture
and delicate flavor. Narrower vermilion snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens_) are the most common member of this family in American waters and often sold as red snapper. Yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus chyrsurus
) are gray with a yellow stripe that runs from head to tail. Much appreciated in Florida, they are quite perishable.

Top: Yellowtail Snapper
Bottom: Lane Snapper

Lane snapper (L. synagris_) are small and pale pink with bright yellow stripes from head to tail; they are best cooked whole. Pacific red snapper (L. peru_), found off the Pacific coast of Mexico and Baja California, are more elongated than the American red snapper from the Gulf of Mexico. Pacific rockfish, also called red snapper, are a different fish. Hawaiian red or ruby snapper (Etelis coruscans_) are bright red with a long tail and clear, light pink flesh. Those caught in winter are higher in fat, so they make the best sashimi, served to celebrate the New Year in Hawaii. Pink snapper
(Pristipomoids filamentosus_) are highly prized in Hawaii, especially for sashimi. Jobfish (Aprion vierscens
), though not snapper, are similar. They are gray with a greenish hue and are sought after in Hawaii for sashimi and for cooking. Kawago snapper (
Lethrinus nebulosus
) are a prestige fish found in the waters off Hawaii and the Indo-Pacific region. They are a tropical species in the Lethrinidae family, related to the snapper, with excellent flavor.

Locale and Season: Most American red snappers come from the Gulf
Coast, caught near the reefs where they gather. The
spring commercial red snapper fishing season begins
on February 1; the fall season begins on October 1.
Fishing is allowed from the first to the tenth of the
month, until the quota is reached. Red snapper and
their close relatives are found from North Carolina
and Florida’s “snapper banks” to Louisiana, Texas, and
the Gulf coast of Mexico. Peak season for ruby snapper
is December. Pink snapper are best in winter,
when fat content is highest. Jobfish are best and most
available in summer.

Characteristics: Red snapper average 4 to 6 pounds with brilliant red skin, though small fish will be metallic pink. The
meat is soft, tender, and semitransparent with a pinkish tone when fresh. Cooked, the meat is pink-white. American snapper are almost always sold with their beautiful (and edible) skin to prevent substitutions. Vermilion snapper are small, at 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, with bright red color and broken yellow stripes. Market weight for ruby snapper is 1 pound. Pink snapper average 3 to 5 pounds. Yield for snappers
is 45 percent.

How to Choose: Choose fish with clear, bright red eyes; buy fillets with the skin on, because it helps to hold the delicate flesh together and ensures that you’re buying the real thing. Note that snappers are reef fish, and if caught in an area with ciguatera, especially in the Caribbean, they may contain this poison. This is unlikely, however, because known areas are avoided.

Storage: Red snapper have delicate flesh and should be handled gently. Store whole red snapper up to 2 days refrigerated covered with crushed ice; store fillets 1 day refrigerated covered with crushed ice.


To cook whole red snapper, score crosswise in 2 or 3 places through the thickest flesh near the head.

Broil or grill whole, pan-fry whole or fillets, steam whole or fillets, bake or deep-fry whole.

Suggested Recipe: Huachinango Veracruzana (serves 4): Marinate a 2- to 3-pound cleaned, scored, whole red snapper in a mixture of 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, the juice of 2 limes, and a pinch of ground cloves and black pepper for 30 minutes. Drain and, in a large skillet, brown the fish on both sides in 4 tablespoons hot vegetable oil and then add 1 sliced white onion, 2 bay leaves, 2 cups diced, peeled plum tomatoes, 2 sliced jalapeño or serrano chiles, 1/2 cup sliced
pitted green olives, 1 tablespoon capers, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, and salt to taste. Simmer 15 minutes or until the fish flakes. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.

Flavor Affinities: Capers, chervil, chiles, chives, cilantro, grapefruit, guava, key lime, lemon, lime, mango, marjoram, mint, olive oil, orange, oregano, passion fruit, pineapple, star fruit, tarragon, tomato, white wine.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com