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Charcoal-grilled red snapper

June 20, 2008 12:09:18 PM PDT
In this edition of Neighborhood Eats, we've got a a favorite fish with an ethnic twist. It's red snapper, Greek-style. And it's also one of the healthiest preparations out there. You'll find it at a place called Mezzo Mezzo, which is like saying appetizer appetizer.

It's located at 31-29 Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, Queens.

Mezzo Mezzo offers plenty of reasons to stop by. The look of the restaurant is one reason.

It's not your typical Greek restaurant. That's because it's the look of the owner's native home, outside of Sparta.

As for the food, they are family recipes.

Charlie Kourakos' family has always been in the restaurant business.

"I was serving by the time I was 13," he said.

And one of his favorite dishes is the whole red snapper. It seasoned with salt and a generous brushing of olive oil and garlic. It's then put into the fish cage and right onto the grill, with a quick flip after 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, a sauce of olive oil, capers and herbs gets mixed. That goes on top of the grilled fish. Then, they'll filet it for you, if you like. There's also octopus, lamb and chicken.

And you won't find any Greek tragedies here. You'll find comedy. Three times a week, upstairs the restaurant is home to the Mezzo Comedy Club. And now the restaurant is popular with comedians.

For more on the comedy club, click here.

Recipe: Charcoal-grilled red snapper

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds red snapper
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • 8 oz virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers paste

    Sauce:

    Put all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl and beat them vigorously with a fork or whisk until they are well mixed.

    5 oz virgin olive oil
    1 fresh lemon
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon white pepper
    1 teaspoon fresh parsley
    1 tablespoon capers paste
    1 tablespoon oregano

    Preparation:

    Prepare a charcoal or gas grill to high heat, brush each side with virgin olive oil and Garlic over the red snapper.

    1 garlic clove, chopped
    3 oz virgin olive oil

    Turn and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Put the fish on a platter. Spread the sauce both side with the fresh lemon-oil sauce.

    Note:

    The Problem: Grilling a whole fish produces a plethora of problems: skin stuck fast to the grill, blotchy and burned patches, and unevenly cooked or crumbly, messy fish.

    The Goal: We wanted crisp skin striped with dark char marks and moist meat imbued with the heady scent of wood smoke.

    The Solution: The first step was to choose the right fish; red snapper and striped bass are widely available and reasonably sized, and their mild flesh absorbs smoky flavor well. Size is important; fish much over 1 1/2 pounds produced burned skin by the time they cook through. Grill heat was the next challenge; we found that using a medium-hot fire produced great-tasting fish but torn skin. Slashing the skin not only kept it intact, but also allowed the fish to cook faster and more evenly-and it was easier to gauge the doneness of each side. For final insurance against torn skin, we found that using two thin metal spatulas to flip the fish allowed us to roll it over safely.


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