Whole grilled yellowtail snapper with pineapple salsa
Yellowtail snapper (not to be confused with yellowfin tuna) is not only a favorite dish at my sushi restaurant, but it’s also excellent & easy to grill a whole yellowtail at home. Yellowtail is a mild-tasting white fish with a firm texture, and is abundant in local Florida waters. I first had whole yellowtail at my favorite beachside restaurant in Florida. The chef there prepares it with a mango salsa, but I’m allergic to mango, so I make my salsa from fresh pineapple.
I quarter a fresh pineapple, then sear it on the grill before chopping it into the salsa to bring out all the flavor. I learned the method of par-grilling the yellowtail from a similar recipe in Gwyneth Paltrow & Julia Turshen’s cookbook, It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great. This recipe is my variation.
Fair warning: this is grilled whole fish; which requires separating the skin from the fillets and the fillets from the from the spine. If you like your fish orderly and/or are squeamish about a fish with it’s head intact; or are averse to picking out a bone or two from your fish then this recipe is definitely NOT for you! This is a non-recipe recipe; the kind where you can follow my rough outline, and tweak it to your taste. Have fun with it.
The yellowtail is marinaded in a simple mix of olive oil, lemon, garlic, sea salt, & parsley.
Season the inside and outside of the fish with the marinade & allow it to marinate for an hour.
The pineapple salsa gets a flavor punch from quick searing the pineapple quarters on the grill. This is optional, though. If you prefer to make a mango salsa there’s a great recipe here.
Grill the fish directly on a hot & well-oiled grill; turning just once until it’s partially cooked; about 5 minutes each side. Transfer the fish into a hot oven to finish cooking completely. This method imparts the flavor of grilling without the hazard of a completely cooked fish falling apart on the grill. It’s done when the fish is opaque and flakey. Filleting whole fish is easy. Use a spoon to pull the skin away from the fillet; then slide a spatula between the fillet and backbone. A how-to video is at the end of this post if you want to see exactly how it’s done.
I served my yellowtail with my favorite bagged salad mix (available at Publix & Costco) which makes an easy, delicious and super-healthy accompaniment to the yellowtail.
- 1 handful chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- Juice of two lemons
- ¼ C olive oil
- sea salt (Maldon is best)
- 1 4-5 lb. whole yellowtail snapper; gutted and scaled.
- ½ fresh ripe pineapple; cored, peeled, and quartered.
- 2 small sweet peppers; seeded and diced
- ¼ C diced red onion
- 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1 handful chopped flat-leaf italian parsley
- Juice from one lemon
- ¼-½ tsp. sea salt (Maldon is best)
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp seeded and minced jalapeño pepper (optional)
- Grill quartered pineapple directly on grill; until seared with grill marks on each side; about 2-3 minutes each side. Alternate cooking method: arrange pineapple on a baking sheet and place under a preheated broiler until it just begins to brown, about 5 minutes per side.
- Remove from heat and cool slightly, then cut into ¼ inch cubes and place in a medium glass bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Check for seasonings & adjust to taste. Can be used immediately or cover & refrigerate for 2 hours to allow flavors to combine.
- Mix the herbs, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in a dish large enough to hold your fish. Rub the herb mixture all over the inside and outside of the fish & sprinkle generously all over with sea salt. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 450º F, and set aside a foil-lined roasting pan.
- Heat grill to medium hot. Clean & oil grill grates to prevent sticking.
- Place fish directly on grill and cook until browned; approximately 5-8 minutes. Turn fish (carefully) just once to brown the other side; approximately 5-10 minutes.
- Carefully transfer fish to foil-lined roasting pan and place in oven to finish cooking, approximately 15-20 minutes. The fish should be opaque and flaky when done.
- Fillet the whole fish; for instructions on how to do this, see the video below.
- Serve hot with chilled salsa.
- *If you prefer the fish can be entirely cooked on the grill or oven.
How to serve your whole grilled fish:
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Bon Appetit Big Girl! Hugs, Heather
All images ©Heather Serody