Fresh-off-the-boat fish is one of our greatest resources and grouper reigns supreme among those (nearly every South Carolinian!) who treasure sitting down to a local seafood meal. U.S. regulations ensure wild caught grouper is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested, so this makes grouper a smart seafood choice.
The beauty of cooking grouper is that, even if you go a little overboard with your cooking time, it will usually still be moist and delicious. That’s good news for beginner cooks who want to try their hand at fresh fish.
And what about those cooking wizards skilled in taking fish and seafood dishes to heightened gastronomic levels? Well, they, too, love to feature grouper in their original recipes. Here’s one from Chef Raffaele Dall'Erta, a 2020 SC Chef Ambassador and executive chef at Hamptons in Sumter, in which the freshness of SC grouper is heightened by the flavors of India.
Grouper with Caponata and Herb Gremolata
Serve over an aromatic rice or use the caponata as a bed on which to nestle the seared and baked grouper.
4 SC fresh grouper fillets (5 ounces each)
4 tablespoons garam masala (found in the international section of the grocery store or at specialty markets)
4 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons pine nuts
¼ cup currants
1 anchovy filet in oil (optional)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 thyme leaves
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
½ cup tomato sauce
6 Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced small
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers
Salt to taste
To make, rough chop 1 tablespoon of each of the following:
Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook 5-6 minutes until golden brown. Add eggplant, pine nuts, currants, anchovy, garlic, red pepper flakes, balsamic vinegar and sugar and stir together. Cook until soft in texture. Next add thyme, cocoa powder, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Cook for 3 minutes, then turn down the heat to simmer. Stir occasionally for 10 minutes, until a slightly thick consistency.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Next, season grouper filet on both sides with salt, but coat on one side only with the garam masala. In a large oven-safe pan, heat olive oil over medium heat on stove first. Add fish to pan spice-side down and cook until spicy side turns crispy and fragrant. Next, flip fish on the other side and cook 5 minutes in the oven until thoroughly cooked through.
To serve, spoon caponata on a plate, place fish on top and season with lemon juice, capers and a drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle gremolata over fish.