In addition to good beaches and plenty of sun, cultures touched by the Gulf share something else: fried fish. Cuba, the U.S. and Mexico all have their own takes, but nothing quite tops a fish fried whole.
If you can get your hands on a snapper—red, mangrove, boquinete—that’s the way to go, but really any smaller whole fish will work, not to mention be easier to handle on the stove top. Branzino or trout are perfectly suitable substitutes for the Gulf species.
If there ever was a time to keep things simple, this is it. Simply score both sides of the cleaned fish, season with plenty of sea salt and fresh citrus, and carefully slide into hot oil. Resist the urge to fiddle with it, letting it fry on either side until golden and cooked through. When done, let it rest on some paper towels while you get the rest of the meal ready.
We’re partial to Cuban Black Beans, rice, more citrus and a simple radish and red onion salad, but a whole fried fish is also an excellent time to heat a stack of tortillas and make a quick roasted salsa for some pretty special tacos.