Hogfish Adriatic Hails From Islamorada

A plate of hogfish with Adriatic sauce over rice.

Hogfish Adriatic is an easy snapper recipe and the best to start withif you need to learn how to cook snapper. Lightly napped with fresh herb sauce, this healthy snapper recipe is perfect with rice.

When you think of the Florida Keys, that string of islands stretching from the Southern tip of Florida’s mainland all the way to Key West, what things come to mind?  Stunning sunsets.  Boating.  Fishing.  Snorkeling.  Diving.  Icy boat drinks. Fabulous fresh seafood. Alfresco dining.  You bet, it’s all here! 

As a long time South Florida resident and frequent visitor to the Keys, Scott and I have participated and enjoyed all that these islands have to offer.  And when it’s 20° across the rest of the nation, we’ve enjoyed taunting our Northern friends with photos of palm trees,  flip flops and tan lines.  I’ve selected a few photos so you can see what you’re missing.

Sunset scene overlooking the water in the keys.
Sunset Dining

Which is why I’m so excited to share with you this simple island-inspired recipe by Chef Michael Ledwith.  Born and raised in New York, Chef Michael Ledwith began his culinary training in some of the best restaurants of the Big Apple. His next career adventure took him to the Caribbean, where he learned to prepare seafood beautifully.  Upon returning to the States, he created a name for himself in Central Florida, but longed for island life full of fresh fish.

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Hogfish Adriatic with fire sauce on a plate.

Today, Chef Michael runs a restaurant, aptly named Chef Michael’s, in Islamorada. Situated between the saltwater wilderness of Everglades National Park and the deep blue waters of the Florida Strait is Islamorada, made up of six islands: Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Lower Matecumbe Key and the offshore islands of Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key.

al fresco dining on a covered patio with palm trees and blue skies.
Beautiful sun-drenched vistas.

As a chef who knows his way around the restaurants and activities of the islands, Chef Michael gave us the lowdown on what to see, eat, and do in Islamorada. Where saltwater fly fishing and sport fishing was pioneered and hailed as the fishing capital of the world, it’s no wonder he chose to settle in this district of the Florida Keys. Whether a hardcore fisherman or on a relaxing vacation, Islamorada has water fun, including diving, for every kind of tourist.

View of Molasses Reef in Key Largo.
At the reef.

“It’s all about the water here!”, exclaims Michael as he talks about his perfect day in Islamorada. On one side, visitors can experience the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Bay and The Everglades. And to the left take in the Atlantic and the beautiful reef. Spend a day paddle boarding or learning how to spearfish, then find a comfy seat at one of many waterfront spots and enjoy a sunset. According to Michael, the best sunset spots have live music nightly and great drinks while you take it all in. Islamorada will remind you of an approachable small town, but with so much to do and see. “It’s so small that we don’t even have a stop light.”

Sunset on the water.
Sunset on Florida Bay

Islamorada’s cuisine is known by its fresh-from-the-dock seafood mixed with ethnic flavors, fun tiki bars, dockside fish houses, and gourmet beachfront cafes. At Chef Michael’s, they are excited to always feature a fresh catch that changes daily.

Breakfast on the veranda.
Alfresco Dining

While it may be the fishing capital, Michael admits that serving locally caught seafood can be difficult on a large scale. But for tourists looking for the best local catches and chefs with a passion for fine seafood, relationships are key. “Our supply cannot come close to the demand, so creating relationships with local fish houses, captains and others helps us to provide local, fresh seafood,” says Chef Michael. On a visit to Islamorada, head to restaurants where the locals go and where the chefs have relationships with the charter boat captains.

A chickee hut and palm trees on a beach in Key Largo.
Relax under a chickee hut!

If it’s your first time to the islands, chef michael recommends heading out on a local charter boat (I can recommend a good captain) for the day and catching your own dinner.  It doesn’t get fresher than that! Many restaurants offer “Hook and Cook” and will gladly prepare the fish brought in to your liking.

Besides casually elegant dining at Chef Michael?s, our fish-loving guide recommends a meal at OO-Trayfor a more modern twist on Islamorada cuisine. Wahoo fish wontons, lobster tempura, and mussels in a coconut curry sauce are just some of the sea caught items that dot the menu. Besides the daily catch, visitors can also have a bite of the “Land” featuring bone marrow (Oh-Ma-Gawd!) , Filipino pork belly, or Cornish game hen with pineapple chimichurri.

Hog Snappers at the fish market.

When in Islamorada, be sure to try something that is hard to find anywhere else:  locally spear caught hogfish. Over the years, Chef and his team have prepared the fish hundreds of different ways, but when it comes down to it, cooking it simply is always his favorite. An easy preparation, like this Adriatic hogfish recipe, lets the fish’s fresh, clean flavors shine.

A beautiful red and coral colored hogfish snapper.
Hogfish Snapper – a.k.a. dinner!

For the fish for this recipe, I visited my favorite local fishmonger, Pop’s Fish and Ships in Deerfield Beach.  They happened to have several spear caught hogfish in their display case!  I took several photos before selecting my fish.  Then they cleaned it to my specifications, fillets, skin on – and no scales of course.  (Thanks so much!!!

Hogfish Adriatic on a plate with a fork and slice of tomato. Lemon Garnish.

Other Florida Keys Favorites include this MahiMahi, Swordfish, Tuna and Octopus.

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Hogfish Adriatic
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4.77 from 13 votes

Hogfish Adriatic

Simply pan fried hogfish snapper with a lightly spiced herb-citrus emulsion.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword snapper
Dietary Restrictions Dairy-Free, Egg Free, Gluten-Free
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4


For fish

  • 4 6 oz. portions of fresh hogfish
  • salt and pepper to taste

For Adriatic Sauce

  • ½ cup cilantro fresh
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley fresh
  • ¼ cup basil leaf fresh
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons “Fire Cider”
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • salt and pepper


For The Sauce:

  • In a food processor, add all of the ingredients for the sauce and puree until velvety.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • If the sauce is too thick, slowly add more olive oil.
  • Serve the sauce at room temperature. The sauce stays well in the refrigerator for up to a week.

For The Fish:

    To Grill:

    • This fish can be grilled or pan fried.  If you’re grilling, heat the grill to about 425°. Lightly brush the fish with olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Lay the fish on the grill (or if you have a fish grill pan, spray it with vegetable spray, place the fish inside trepan and grill fish for 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through but still tender and moist.  Transfer to a platter.

    To Pan Fry:

    • Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.  Season fish with a little salt and pepper on both sides. When the oil slicks across the pan, carefully place the fish in the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Turn the fish and continue to cook until the fish is cooked through and opaque, but still moist, about 2-3 minutes.

    To Serve:

    • When fish is done, transfer to serving plate, lightly nap the fish with Adriatic sauce.  Served with a lemon wedge, steamed seasoned quinoa and grilled asparagus.


    *The “Adriatic” sauce is also an excellent “dip” for crusty bread.
    Initially, when I saw this recipe, I thought that “Fire Cider” was a special hot sauce — after searching high and low, I called the restaurant and was told that the Fire Cider is a fermented blend of apple cider vinegar, cayenne, habanero, honey and turmeric. Without measurements or instructions, I cobbled together my own rendition.
    SUBSTITUTIONS: If you can’t find hog snapper, you can substitute other snapper, Mahi Mahi, tilapia, or other white fish.


    Calories: 253kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 7mg | Potassium: 89mg | Fiber: 1g | Vitamin A: 845IU | Vitamin C: 25.6mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 0.8mg

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    Want to know how to cook snapper? This easy Hogfish Adriatic is a quick pan saute with a fresh herb sauce. Great over rice. One of the best snapper fish recipes. If you don't have hog snapper, use yellowtail, red snapper or mangrove snapper. #snapper #snapperrecipes #seafood #howtocookfish #howtocooksnapper #floridasnapper #floridakeysfish #easyfishrecipe #fishrecipe #healthyfishrecipe #healthyfish #pescatarian

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    1. This sounds terrific. Can you give us an idea of proportions of ingredients for fire cider? Did I miss that in article?
      Thank you. And thank you for the very informative article.

      1. I used 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of cayenne, a halved habanero pepper, 2 tablespoons of honey and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric. Bring everything to a simmer for about 5 minutes and let it cool, then strain in a fine mesh strainer.

    2. 5 stars
      Nice! I’m pretty sure I’ve never had Hogfish snapper, Lisa…and who doesn’t love an ingredient that can only be found local to a region. I’ve never been to the Keys…and pretty sure I’m missing out!

      1. In this day and age – where worldwide shipping is a “thing” anyone can have hogfish. I think Key Largo Fisheries ships!

    3. 5 stars
      I don’t think I’ve ever had hogfish. So curious now to try it!

    4. 5 stars
      I just returned from my first trip to the Caribbean, and the pictures we took there are stunning: you have some amazing sunshine down there! It’s great that you have such a ready supply of fresh fish to work with, too!

      1. I’m not gonna lie – we are blessed with an abundance of seafood (that’s usually relatively inexpensive). My sister in law lives in Minnesota, and she tells me that she pays upwards of $25-30/pound for seafood.. yikes.

      1. Hogfish is a type of snapper… if you can’t find it, you can substitute any firm white fish.

    5. 5 stars
      Oh I loved reading this post today, it’s my wedding anniversary and we honeymooned in the Florida Keys. Happy memories! Love alfresco dining and this looks beautifully fresh!

      1. Happy Anniversary! Glad to bring back some good memories for you — we are in the Keys at least once a month, love it!

    6. Gorgeous photos….I would to get away and take a trip down there. The fish looks fabulous..what a beautiful meal. xo, Catherine

      1. Islamizada has a lot of beautiful spots and tons of delicious seafood!

      2. Islamorada has a lot of beautiful spots and tons of delicious seafood!

    7. Trish @ Rhubarbarians says:

      Oh man, GORGEOUS! This makes me want to take a vacation! Absolutely beautiful. 🙂

      1. Thanks, Sam! The Florida Keys are definitely worth a visit for the scenery and food!

    8. Lately I can eat fish all the time. So delicious dish and I love that you added my favorite cilantro!

      1. This recipe is really simple and delicious!

    9. Oh, How I miss the Keys! 🙂 Great photos!