These days many One Old Stove recipes are focused on seafood. Part of the reason is to reduce sugar and fat in my diet. This means avoiding pasta and beef. But the truth is I am increasingly drawn to seafood and learning how to butcher and cook fresh finfish.
I stumbled across a website — Great British Chef — and became intrigued by the site’s beautiful photography and the range of recipes presented. This dish is loosely based on a mackerel recipe from this site. I say loosely because the common elements shared by both recipes are limited to thinly sliced cucumber and diced red chili.
Preparation starts with a whole, fresh yellowtail. The fish used here is about 12” (head to tail) and can serve two people. Ask the fish market to scale, gut and remove the dorsal and anal fins in order to avoid a mess at home. Reserve the head and any trimmings for stock.
One large fillet is can be taken from each side of the snapper. For this dish the fillets are sliced lengthwise to produce four narrower pieces more in keeping with the size of the other elements of the dish. Store the fillets in the refrigerator while other components of this recipe are prepared.
Place the reserved fish head, the backbone and any other trimmings from the snapper in a large saucepan along with large pieces of celery, carrot and onion. Top with water and let simmer over medium low heat for about an hour before straining the broth, seasoning and finishing with a pinch of saffron.
While the broth is cooking, slice the cucumber into long, thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Finely mince a red Fresno or Jalapeno chili, dice 1/2 of a shallot and chop a handful of cilantro. Set these aside along with the cucumber until ready to assemble the dish.
The snapper is first cooked skin side down in a sauté pan liberally coated with olive oil. After two minutes it is be turned and cooked for an additional minute. Longer cooking time may be needed for thicker fillets. Drain the sautéed fillets on paper towels before assembling the dish with the cucumbers, chili, shallots, cilantro, broth and a simple lemon/olive oil vinaigrette.
- 1 fresh, whole Yellowtail Snapper, cleaned (medium sized – about 12 inches long)
- 2 stalks of celery cut in thirds lengthwise
- 4 small carrots cut in half (Include a handful of carrot greens)
- 1 shallot quartered
- 1 pinch saffron
- Juice of one lemon
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 6 to 8 thin, lengthwise slices of cucumber
- 1 red chili (Fresno preferred) finely minced
- 1 shallot finely diced
- 1 handful of cilantro, chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Remove the head from the yellowtail and trim one fillet from each side of the backbone. Slice the fillets lengthwise to produce four, long pieces of fish. Store fish in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
- Place the fish head, backbone and any other trimmings in a large saucepan along with celery, carrots and shallot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for one hour.
- After the broth has cooked for an hour, strain the solids and return the broth to the heat. Add 1 generous pinch of saffron along with salt and pepper to taste. Cook broth for an additional 1/2-hour and adjust seasoning. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon and cook on low heat for a final 15 minutes, or until the fish is ready to serve.
- Prepare a simple vinaigrette with juice from the remaining 1/2 lemon, salt, pepper and good quality olive oil. Set aside.
- Season the snapper fillets with salt and fresh ground pepper. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of good quality olive oil to a shallow sauté pan and heat until the oil shimmers over medium high heat. Add the fillets to the pan without crowding and cook skin side down for 2 to 3 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Turn and cook for 1 minute longer.
- To assemble the dish, arrange a bed of cucumber slices on the bottom of a shallow serving bowl or plate. Place the sautéed snapper on the cucumber slices skin side up. Spoon a small quantity of the minced chili and diced shallot over the fish followed by a small ladle of the saffron broth. Finish the dish by sprinkling with chopped cilantro and spooning on a small amount of vinaigrette made simply of lemon and olive oil.