Golden Snapper
Whole Fish [Redfish (fishbase), Eastern Nannygai, Koarea; Centroberyx affinis]

Not actually a snapper, but related to the Squirrelfish / Soldierfish, this fish is found from northern Tasmania north to the central coast of Australia, and also around New Zealand and New Caledonia. It can grow to over 20 inches long and 4 pounds, but is commonly less than 16 inches. The photo specimen, from New Zealand, was 15 inches long and weighed 1 pound 15-1/2 ounces. This fish is not considered threatened, IUCN Red List rated NE (Not Evaluated). It is a commercially exploited fish within its range.

More on Varieties of Fish (very large page).

This fish is a bit of a hassle to deal with (it takes the class name "bony fishes" seriously), but the flesh is bright white with an outstanding mild flavor and good texture. It holds together well enough for poaching but not for extended wet cooking. There is a thin darker layer right under the skin along the centerline, but it's flavor is not much stronger than the rest of the flesh. The skin cooks up a beautiful bright red, but has considerable shrink. Keep it on if you can, perhaps score in a diamond pattern for some methods of cooking.

Buying:   This is not at all a common fish here in Southern California. The photo specimen was purchased at an Asian market in Los Angeles (Alhambra, actually) for 2015 US $9.99 per pound, definitely a premium priced fish.

Scales:   The scales are fairly large and very stiff with strong adhesion. They scrape off rather hard, but with only moderate flying about. You will have to pull some off with long nose pliers. There is a row of sharp pointy scales between the pelvic (bottom) fins.

Cleaning:   This fish presents no unusual problems in cleaning, but the gills pull very hard so need to be cut out with kitchen shears. The esophagus is tough, so it will have to be cut as well. Handle carefully, because it has quite a few prickly spines.

Fillet:   This is a reasonably easy fish to fillet, with coherent bone and fin structure. I usually remove the head before filleting. When you get to the rib cage, just cut the ribs away from the backbone with kitchen shears and pull them from the fillet using long nose pliers. They pull hard, but cleanly. There are a few substantial centerline spines, long and sharp enough to be dangerous, but they are are not easy to find and even harder to pull. Eat with care, in case you missed one.

Skin:   The skin has no strong or "off" flavor, but does have fairly strong shrink. It does weaken during cooking and fillets can be pan fried skin-on if you press them flat after turning them skin side down. This is easiest done if the fillets are cut in half along the centerline. The skin is tough enough fillets can be skinned rather easily using the standard long knife and cutting board Method. Removed skins should be added to the stock pot with the heads, fins and bones.

Yield:   A 1 pound 15-1/2 ounce fish yielded 15 ounces of skin-on fillet (48%), and 14 ounces skinless (44%). Yield is a little low due to the heavy head and bones, but do not discard them - see Stock below

Stock:   The head, bones, fins and skins make one of the best soup stocks you will ever taste. It is almost clear, but with a moderate amount of clear oil. Remove this using your gravy separator. For details see our Fish Stock page.

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