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Friday, August 21, 2009

Capt. Ben Marler's Baked Snapper

Have you seen Julie & Julia yet? If you have, you might be feeling like giving a little dinner party...
My Dad, Capt. Ben Marler, just gave me a beautiful red snapper that he caught, cleaned, wrapped in saran wrap, and froze for me. It is thawing in my refrigerator. You can buy hopefully buy Red Snapper at a fish market. I will prepare it Saturday to serve for Sunday dinner because it is better the next day as it must absorb all the flavors. There is really no substitute for the delicate sweet red snapper in this recipe. It's baked in a savory, tangy sauce made by sauteing onions, garlic and bell peppers in real bacon drippings (Bacon is in vogue in many recipes right now, too). Add an undrained can of tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon, salt and pepper, 1 small bayleaf (optional) and cover, simmering on very low heat so as to not scorch the tomatoes or lose too much liquid. Add water if necessary. The aroma will be heavenly. In a rectangular glass baking dish, pour the sauce over the half side of snapper, skin side down. Place 3-4 lemon slices on the top. Bake in a preheated oven, covered, at 350 degrees until meat is white and flakes with a fork. It will have a silky texture. Then, resist devouring and cover and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, reheat, place 3-4 new lemon slices, discarding the old ones, over the snapper and garnish with parsley, if desired.
Here is an excerpt from my book found in the Destin Libary, describing my grandmother Cleo's weekly family dinner in the 1960's in Destin, Florida:
"We could hear her whistling in the kitchen, or talking on the base radio to my grandfather as he steered the boat back in to the dock, broadcasting on station call letters KCS 1395. The aroma of baked red snapper with tomatoes, onions, pepper, lemon and bacon was heady. She would be cooling down tea, and slicing lemons. There would be a relish tray with black olives, radishes, bell peppers. Brown and serve rolls, and whipped "cow butter" as my sister and I called it. She would have green salad with plain oil and vinegar for dressing. The white wrought iron and glass table in her large kitchen would be set with all the dishes within reach. A step ladder chair would be pulled up to the table with phone books on it for my little sister. We would have conversation, the news, the telephone ringing with boat reservations, and all, but we loved every animated, happy moment of it."

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