Posted by: Erica Retrochef | January 4, 2016

Snapper with Sesame Seed Stuffing

2015 was a busy, busy year. With the kids getting older and more responsibilities at work, I had less time to cook and blog. We had enough of a backlog of pre-written posts and could limp along, but it was a challenge. I’m not as pleased with last year’s productivity as I expected to be last January.

This year, we’re looking forward to a full 52 weeks of retro recipe wackiness. And we’re going to start off with a hilarious serving chosen by Buzz. He texted me at work to say he’d found a good recipe, but wouldn’t say what it was.

This recipe will also be the first in a monthly series for election year 2016. Each month, we will feature a recipe related to a politician. This month, the connection is admittedly a bit tenuous, because we didn’t come up with the idea until after this recipe was cooked and eaten.


Baked red snapper with sesame seed stuffing: Toast 2 tbsps. sesame seed in 3 tbsps. butter. Combine 3 cs. toasted bread cubes, 1/4 c. chopped celery, tbsp. chopped parsley, 1/4 tsp. salt, dash pepper. Moisten with 2 tbsps. white wine. Stuff 5-lb. whole red snapper. Bake 35 min. at 350°.

The recipe comes from 1967 Ebony magazine. The cover story was about Adam Clayton Powell — the controversial congressman well known for his love of Caribbean vacations. Right after the article about Powell and his boat came a few pages of tips and recipes for how to prepare more exotic varieties of seafood.


I got home, walked into the kitchen, and immediately yelped in surprise. “Why is there a giant dead fish in my kitchen?!?

Buzz cheerfully explained that he was making stuffed red snapper.

“It didn’t have to be snapper,” he announced proudly. “The recipe was for snapper, but I was going to buy whatever reasonable kind of whole fish they had at the supermarket. And the only kind they had was snapper, just like in the recipe!”


There were fish scales all over the sink and Buzz’s upper body. They were still turning up around the corners of the kitchen for a week.

Buzz cheerfully explained that he’d taken the snapper’s spine off after getting repeatedly stabbed while scaling it. “Look, I got a picture!”


I tasted the stuffing and said it tasted burnt.

Buzz cheerfully explained that he’d burnt the first batch of sesame seeds and he’d be making a second serving. At this point, we realized that he had also misread “bread cubes” as “breadcrumbs.”


At that point I wandered out, rather dazed. I’ll readily admit that my family meals are at least a few steps removed from the ingredient source, with the exception of a few vegetables we manage to eke out of the garden each summer. Seeing eyeballs and scales and spines all over my kitchen isn’t really relaxing for me.

Buzz cheerfully yelled after me that he would finish up dinner. My response was along the lines of, “Mrearrrrrggghhhh….”


A while later, he cheerfully brought out an entire fish and set it down in the center of the table.

The kids stared at the fish, then at him, then back at the fish.

The fish stared back.

(In the picture for the recipe, they had cut off the snapper’s head. However, Buzz admitted that he thought they had just jammed the fish’s jaws wide open and stuffed it through the mouth.)


When it was time to cut the dish up and serve it, the skeleton came right out of the cooked body, looking like the bones left behind by a cartoon cat after eating a juicy cartoon fish.

The toughest part of this recipe was dealing with the whole fish, a rather new experience for the kids that they didn’t cope with well. (We once got our daughter a whole fish entree from the Jamaican restaurant down the street, and she had a hard time with the whole body then too.) To be fair, I didn’t cope well with it either. But when I managed to be mature about it, the fish tasted pretty good — moist, with sesame-flavored and slightly spicy stuffing.

For fish-loving families, this may be worth a try. Just make sure you warn everybody first!

Recipe was published in Ebony, March 1967, page 112, and is available in Google Books.


  1. This just made me laugh out loud. The fish stared back, indeed! I’ve been fishing, cleaning, and cooking my catch since I was a kid, but I don’t usually leave the heads on 🙂

  2. So, what’s the tenuous political connection? I blinked and I missed it…

    I’m snickering at the thought of scales continuing to turn up… it’s like doing a beading project, and finding beads FOREVER. Immaturely, I would have run screeching from this — but I’m so glad Buzz had fun!!

    • Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (D-NY) liked tropical fishing. Here’s an article about him playing on his boat. There’s an immediately following article about how to cook tropical seafood.

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