R.J. Cooper received a call last week from a fish supplier who asked if the Vidalia chef would like to buy a few specimens of this western-Atlantic monstrosity called the “hog snapper,” an ugly beauty also known as the hogfish. (It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out where the name comes from.)
I happened to be at Vidalia for other reasons when Cooper thought I needed a look at the hog snapper. Neither one of us had ever tried the fish before, so Cooper took out a knife and a steel, honed his blade, and started to cut up the snapper.
The flesh is milky white and flakes apart with barely any pressure from Cooper’s knife. The fillet looks so inviting that Cooper makes the right call and samples it sashimi style. He sprinkles on some sea salt, olive oil, and Espelette pepper and gobbles them down straight.
I follow suit, and the flavor blows me away. This is no mere mild white fish in which the sauce must provide the majority of the flavor. The hogfish flesh is sweet and clean — and practically as rich as freshly made mozzarella. When Vidalia’s sommelier and manager Doug Mohr walks into the kitchen, Cooper gives him a bite. Mohr starts gushing about the flavors, too.
That’s when Cooper makes a decision right then and there: The hogfish will be served sashimi style. No heat treatment for this creature of the sea.
The snapper will be on Vidalia’s menu this weekend, Cooper says. Look for it to be served raw, with accents of king crab, watermelon radish, ruby grapefruit, and coconut emulsion.
More pics of the hog snapper after the jump.