13 March 2011

Red Snapper with Scallion, Ginger and Lemongrass

Fish. I can't seem to get much beyond salmon and the occasional tuna steak. Something about the cooking of it seems chancy, as though I'm likely to end up ordering pizza at the end of the night if I screw it up. And yet when I spotted a pile of whole red snapper on chipped ice at the grocery store for $7.99 a pound, I thought it was time to try out the Asian technique I've seen on countless cooking TV shows, back to the days when PBS was pretty much the only offering for food voyeurism, with the likes of Yan Can Cook.  
Turns out I was right to be wary of cooking whole fish as the finished result had me picking bones AND scales out of my meal. (Note: Whole Foods Tribeca fish mongers need some proper training). When I was able to get a boneless bite in, however, I loved the flavors enough to try it again. This time I chose the much simpler-for-the-home-cook -- pre-boned and fully scaled fillets. The result was subtle and aromatic of all my favorite flavors, and I felt sort of healthy and bouncy afterward rather than wanting to take a nap, as I often find myself after a weekend dinner. I've included photos of both efforts, as I'd definitely encourage the attempt at the whole fish.  
Red Snapper with Scallion, Ginger, and Lemongrass
Adapted from Epicurious

1 16- to 18-ounce whole red snapper, cleaned, scaled OR 2 fillets of snapper
3 inch piece, fresh ginger, peeled
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
small bunch fresh cilantro, washed
2 tablespoon shallots, minced
1 tablespoon lemongrass, finely minced
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

If using whole fish, slice one section of ginger into 3 thin wafers and then cut these in half. Slice one large clove of garlic into 6 thin slices. Grate the remaining ginger and garlic and set aside. Also set aside 6 nice sized leaves of cilantro. Chop the remaining cilantro fine – it should equal about 2-3 tablespoons.

If using fillets of fish, grate all of the ginger and garlic and chop all of the cilantro.
Prepare fish: if using whole fish, make 3 to 4 diagonal slits on each side of fish and insert a slice of ginger, garlic, and cilantro leaf in each slit. Cover in a glass dish and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours (or up to 6 hours). If using fillet you can skip this step and move on to preparing the fish for cooking, making individual parcels of aluminum foil for each fillet, with the edges turned up so that they can hold both the fish and a small amount of poaching liquid.

Pour enough water into wok or large pan (I used a large frying pan) to reach depth of 1 1/2 inches. Place the bottom tier of a bamboo steamer large enough to hold the fish, over the wok. If you don't have a bamboo steamer or a wok, you can use a vegetable steamer rack set in a large pan, or even, in a pinch, a plate smaller than the size of the pan so that the steam can circulate around it. If using the whole fish, place fish in pie plate small enough to fit in your steamer, or a plate, or you can try the aluminum foil method as with the fillets. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon each of chopped cilantro, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, and ginger into dish (or for the fillet's in the aluminum foil pouches) around and on top of fish. Pour broth and 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon lime juice into dish. Bring water to boil. Cover bamboo steamer (or pot). Steam fish until just opaque in center at bone, about 18 minutes.

While the fish is cooking, prepare some steamed brown or white rice and the flavored oil, combining sesame oil and vegetable oil in heavy medium skillet. Add 1 teaspoon minced ginger and garlic, 2 tablespoons shallots and green onions. Stir over medium heat until oil is hot and seasonings are fragrant making sure garlic does not burn, about 2 minutes. Pour seasoned oil into small bowl; add remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce.

Using large spatula, carefully transfer fish to a platter. Spoon some of seasoned oil over fish. Serve fish with rice and steamed vegetable of your choice. (I tried this with spinach and would make the spinach and seasoned oil by themselves over and over again!)

1 comment :

  1. Top recipe my man (or lady). worked a treat with fresh NZ snapper! Too much soy in the oil though I reckon, 1tbsp would have been enough. Gold though. Yum.


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