Allow me to introduce you to the fastest (20 minutes, no joke), easiest, most forgiving, fancy-looking weeknight meal. Ever. In the last 45 minutes I:
-Said hi to Nugget (most time-intensive item on this list) and Isaiah
-Changed out of my work clothes, washed my hands
-Made this meal
-Cleaned the kitchen
-Made tea and ate one (okay fine, two) pieces of chocolate
-Sat down to write this post
I got the inspiration for this fish from a recipe a friend posted on Facebook a long time ago. Now, the awkward thing is I don’t remember who that friend was or which chef the original recipe belongs to, so I can’t credit either my friend or the original recipe. I tried googling “tomato lemon garlic fish” but I couldn’t find what I remember of the original recipe. All this to say, disclaimer: this may or may not be an accidentally stolen recipe.
Start with a quarter of an onion (or whatever you have in your fridge), lots of garlic, a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes (or a few larger tomatoes), some lemon, and a piece of fish. This is red snapper but I often use local seabass from Ah Hua Kelong or barramundi from kuhlbarra. They are all fabulous in this recipe.
The most time intensive part of this recipe is allowing the fish to dry out. This is the key to getting crispy crispy skin. You can take the fish out of its packaging and place it uncovered on a plate to air dry in the fridge. Technically you’re supposed to do this for about an hour but I think you can leave it in your fridge the whole day while you’re at work and no one will die (hopefully).
When ready to cook, remove the fish from the fridge, gently pat with a paper towel to remove any leftover moisture and salt on both sides (I was a bit too generous in the photo above).
Heat 2 tbs oil in a heavy bottomed skillet until hot and smoking. Err on the side of too hot. (If you don’t have a cast iron skillet yet, do yourself a favor and buy one right now. You can get one for about 15 bucks on Amazon, which ships to Singapore. And, as you can see from this blog, you’ll use it for everything.)
Place snapper in the pan skin side down. As soon as the fish hits the oil press the fillet firmly with a spatula to prevent the fish curling up. Fry for 5-7 minutes, pressing down every so often to ensure 100% contact. When fish is opaque on all sides and easily lifts from the pan, flip and cook on the other side until fish is cooked through. If the fish is stuck to the pan that means it’s not finished yet, so leave it alone for a few more minutes.
While the fish is cooking, thinly slice your onion and lemon, and roughly chop your garlic. We’re not aiming for perfection here. Now go back to your pan–
Remove from the pan and set aside, leaving the heat on the stove. Take a moment to admire that gorgeous, crispy skin. Stop yourself from tearing off a piece and stuffing it into your mouth.
In the same pan, without rinsing, add the onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until fragrant, stirring frequently and using a spatula to scrape up any yummy fish bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Before adding the lemon slices, give them a squeeze to release most of the juices.
This is starting to get good.
Add tomatoes and spread the lemon slices and tomatoes in as even of a layer as you can, maximizing contact with your pan. Let this cook undisturbed for a few minutes.
This is what you want. Some charing, a lot of caramelization. YUMMM.
For fun, add some Italian seasoning. Or, if you have it fresh basil (I didn’t have any), use that instead.
Serve with quinoa or and pine nut couscous (recipe to come) or on a bed of baby spinach. Eat. Send a silent prayer of gratitude up to heaven for giving you a husband who doesn’t like fish skin so you get double your portion.
Printable recipe below.
Tomato, Lemon, Garlic Snapper
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
1 large red snapper fillet (or black seabass or barramundi)
2 tbs olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, and chopped
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 medium tomatos, diced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
a pinch of Italian spices or fresh basil (optional)
- Wash snapper, pat dry with paper towels, and sprinkle with salt. With a sharp knife, score through the skin in 1 cm intervals.
- In a frying pan, heat up 2 tbs olive oil on high until hot. Place snapper in the pan skin side down. As soon as the fish hits the oil press the fillet firmly to prevent the fish curling up. Fry for 3-5 minutes, undisturbed, until skin is golden and crisp. When fish easily lifts from the pan, flip and cook on the other side until fish is just cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- In the same pan, add garlic and onions and cook until charred and fragrant. Add diced tomatoes and lemon, squeezing the lemon to release juices, and cook for 5-10 minutes in an even layer until tomatoes and lemon are charred and caramelized. Stir in Italian spices, salt, and pepper to taste.
- Serve with quinoa, couscous, or spinach.