Recipe courtesy of Widza Gustin for Food Network Kitchen

Epis-Marinated Grilled Red Snapper

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 4 hr
  • Active: 1 hr 50 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
This modern version of grilled snapper is jam-packed with flavor. The foundation of the dish is epis, Haiti’s herb-and-seasoning blend usually made with sweet and hot peppers, onion, garlic, fresh herbs and a variety of spices and other flavorings. It’s used in countless Haitian dishes, from rice and beans to soups and stews; it’s also a favored marinade. This recipe makes the epis with a blender instead of mortar-and-pestle and grills the fish over charcoal or gas rather than over wood. Wrapping the fish in banana leaves before grilling seals in flavor and juices. Scotch bonnet peppers are one of the stars of this dish, adding a kick that’s sure to get attention at a barbecue



  1. Combine the cider vinegar, scallion, roughly chopped onion, celery, roughly chopped green and red bell peppers, shallot, garlic and 1 Scotch bonnet pepper in a blender (see Cook’s Notes). Blend on high until finely chopped, about 30 seconds. Add the cilantro, culantro and thyme and pulse until finely chopped. Add the 1/2 bunch parsley and pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Drizzle in the olive oil and process until smooth and bright green, about 1 minute. Set aside 1 cup of the epis and place in the refrigerator. Keep the remaining sauce for another use (refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 5 days).
  3. Cut 3 to 4 diagonal slits on each side of the fish. Squeeze both the lemon halves over the fish; massage the juice into the inside and the outside of the fish as well as into the slits. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons salt. Cover the fish with cold water in a deep baking dish or large bowl. Pour in the white vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.
  4. Mix the 3/4 teaspoon remaining salt, the all-purpose seasoning, garlic powder, cayenne, black pepper and allspice in a small bowl. Sprinkle the mixture into the slits and inside the fish. Rub the reserved 1 cup of epis all over the fish. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
  5. Just before you’re ready to cook, place the banana leaves on your counter until defrosted, about 20 minutes. Soak the twine in a small bowl of warm water.
  6. When ready to cook, prepare a grill for medium-high heat.
  7. Place the 2 pieces of twine perpendicular to each other, the longer piece horizontally and the shorter piece vertically. Place one large piece of banana leaf horizontally on top of the twine, making sure it’s centered. Place 2 long pieces of banana leaf vertically on top of the horizontal piece.
  8. Layer the thinly sliced onion and thinly sliced green and red bell peppers in the center of the banana leaf and lay the fish on top. Place lemon slices in the slits of the fish and one bay leaf in each slit that is facing up. Place the remaining lemon slices in the cavity. Poke the whole cloves into the remaining Scotch bonnet and place it in the fish’s head. Roll up one side of the banana leaf from left to right making sure to tuck the flap under the vegetables. Roll the second side of the banana leaf from right to left, making sure to tuck it under the fish tightly. Fold the banana leaf flap from bottom to top under the fish. Repeat folding from top to bottom. Grab the twine and tightly tie the packet lengthwise and widthwise, sealing the fish in. Brush both sides of the packet with vegetable oil.
  9. Place the fish on the grill and cook on both sides until the leaves are charred, 15 to 18 minutes per side. Remove it from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Cut the twine and banana leaf open to release steam. Serve the fish sprinkled with the chopped parsley.

Cook’s Note

Making the epis in a high-speed blender will give you a much finer blend, although you could also use a regular blender or food processor. The epis can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days or frozen for up to a month. Marinating the fish overnight is ideal to allow it to absorb all of the seasonings, but 2 hours will give you excellent results as well.