Living here in Canada and trying to cook Greek food can sometimes be a challenge. AlthoughÂ I can boast about living in a wonderful and diverse food city like Toronto, not all ingredients are available here for Greek cuisine.
The most glaring void would have to be fresh fish from the Mediterranean. Often, I must settle for a cousin or a related fish to that of it’s European counterpart. One such fish is the red snapper. Many fish today are conveniently labeled as “red snapper”. So, when I see the “real deal” (below photograph) in the market – a Lithrini (red snapper), I’m all over the fish and buy it immediately.
The red snapper in Greece is called the Lithrini and in English, it’s the Pandora. It’s part of the sea bream family andÂ can grow up to 60cm, has a red/pinkish tint and it’s wonderful grilled or baked. In Greece, serving a Lithrini to friends or guests would impress them as it’s a light, flavourful fish and more costly.
With the cool weather here, the grill isn’t as accessible and frankly, I don’t feel like standing outside to grill a couple of fish. A little creativity in the kitchen will reward you with some equally delicious dishes.
Today, I’m sharing my dish which starts out with pan-frying the pandoras and then finishing off the dish in the oven with a wonderful, briny sauce that complements this gold-standard of a fish.
Once again, I’m opting for whole fish. A whole fish allows me to inspect the fish for freshness: smell the fish (should only smell of the sea), lift the gills and see if they are a bright red, touch the fish (should be firm and a little slimy) and the eyes should be bright and definitely not cloudy or sunken in.
This recipe is for two (two whole fish). You’ll need a large skillet to fry-off both fish at the same time. Otherwise, fry in batched and place in a large baking dish. You will need a medium-to coarse semolina flour. I chose semolina flour so that the fish’s skin stays crispy. Dredging fish in all-purpose flour and then having it in a sauce won’t cut it. Try semolina flour for dredging, I love crispy skin and the addition of semolina preserves this texture.
Beyond the semolina flour, I’ve paired the wish with classic Greek ingredients…fresh rosemary (part of my indoor herb collection), briny capers and Kalamata olives, dry Greek white wine , lemon and parsley.
Semolina Crusted Pandora With Capers and Kalamata Olives
2 whole Pandora fish (or red snapper or sea bream), cleaned, gutted, scaled
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
approx. 1/2 cup of medium (coarse) semolina flour
coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. of capers, rinsed
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup warm water or vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp. of lemon zest + juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives or scallions
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
Pre-heated 375F oven
- Prepare your “mise en place” or have all ingredients ready. To pit your olives, I used the spout of a small plastic funnel to poke the pits out. Then you can easily slice them. Rinse your fish and pat them dry. Season with salt (inside & out) and dredge with the semolina flour.
- Place a large oven-proof skillet on your stove-top over medium-high heat. Drop some semolina flour into the oil to test how hot it is. When it starts to float and sizzle – you’re ready. Fry-off your fish for 6 minutes a side and then remove the fish with a spatula and reserve.
- Allow the oil in the skillet to cool and reduce the heat to medium. Add the white wine, the stock, lemon juice and zest, garlic, bay leaf and parsley, capers and olives. Simmer for 5 minutes and then place the fish back in the skillet. Swirl the pan so that the the ingredients surround the fish and taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Place in your pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.
- Carefully take the skillet out of the oven. To check if your fish is done, gently tug on the dorsal fin of the fish. Your fish is ready if the fin gives you little resistance when pulling. Otherwise, place the fish back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
- Carefully place your fish on a platter and sprinkle with some chopped fresh chives (or scallions), the chopped rosemary and serve with a wedge of lemon.
- Serve with baked rice with red peppers and a bottle of Boutari Kallisti 2007.
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