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Cook’s Notes – Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

Cook's Notes - Vermilion Snapper Meuniere gluten-free recipe

For today’s meal, we made our Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette recipe. You can see the photographs of the process and the recipes for both dishes in that post.

Vermilion Snapper Meunière

Meunière comes from the French word for “miller’s wife”, and generally refers to the technique of dredging something in flour, quickly frying it, and serving with a lemon, parsley, and butter sauce. It’s a classic preparation for fish, but it can equally be used for chicken, for example.

With apologies to millers everywhere, cooking gluten free means I needed another starch for the fish. Corn starch was the first thing at hand. I didn’t want to smother the fish, so I used a tea strainer to sift corn starch over the fish. That worked well enough; if I had to do it again, I would probably just put corn starch on a plate, dredge the fish, and be extra careful about knocking off the excess.

Preparation is key here. This cooks lightning quick from start to finish once the pan gets hot. You don’t need much – fish, butter, lemon, parsley, flour – but have it all laid out and ready to go. Chop the parsley. Cut the lemon in half. And so on. Don’t dredge the fish ahead of time (it’ll pull moisture out of the fish and get gummy), do that while the butter melts in the pan. Once the fish cooks, get the lemon juice in the pan quickly so the butter doesn’t burn. Bringing it to a boil and stirring helps emulsify the sauce. Basically, before the pan hits the heat, close your eyes and mentally walk through all the steps from start to finish. You don’t want to have to think about what to do next once this gets going.

Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

That’s part of why the warm leek salad makes a great side – once the leeks sweat and cook through, it can just hang out over a low flame and keep warm. You don’t want to have two dishes that are complicated to finish coming together at the same time – it works in a restaurant where there are multiple cooks working in concert. At home, cooking solo? Don’t make the task harder than it needs to be.

Vinaigrette, in its essence, is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, by volume. You can vary that depending on whether you want more bite or less, or whether your vinegar or oil is particularly pungent, but that’s the basics. Often, vinaigrettes are made with a very neutral oil to not mask the flavors of a dish. But, in this case, with the rendered and reserved bacon fat available – why not put it to good use? Lemon juice brings a sweeter, milder acid to the dressing instead of vinegar, and dijon mustard is a sympathetic sharp flavor. Play with this depending on what else you are serving; for pork chops, for example, throw in chopped rosemary, or with chicken, thyme and tarragon.

Finding Good Local Suppliers

To close, I can’t stress how beautiful this vermilion snapper fish was. Finding good local suppliers and getting to know them are the surest way to stunningly awesome food. In this case, I trust PJ Stoops to tell me about the fish he has on offer and tips for preparation. Christine mentioned in the post that she doesn’t like fish, and that’s a bit of an understatement. I was amazed that she enjoyed this as well as she did; while I would like to say it’s because of my culinary prowess, the quality of the fish really made the difference.

Vermilion Snapper Meuniere with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

Part of what makes food and cooking so wonderful is the community that surrounds it, and we are lucky to be in Houston and surrounded by some of the very best. Mike is pretty engaged with the food community of Houston over on Twitter. (You can find him at @CoffeeMike.) On a recent Saturday, Mike and PJ Stoops, one of Houston’s great treasures, got together at Revival Market, and Mike returned home with a Vermilion snapper.

Update: Be sure to read the Cook’s Notes: Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette for tips on how the recipe came together, tips on the preparation process, making the dish gluten free, why Mike selected the leeks as a side dish, and the importance of finding local suppliers.

Vermilion Snapper Meunière Recipe

Now might be a good time to point out that I don’t like fish. I don’t like the smell of fish. I don’t like that “fishy” flavor. When Mike wants to cook fish, he normally saves it for when I’m not at home. But that wouldn’t make for a very interesting Cooking with Mike project now, would it? Fortunately, the Vermilion Snapper wasn’t as “fishy” as some cuts can be. That gave me hope!

Ready to cook - everything we would need for the meal

Preparing the leeks for our side dish

Cooking down the bacon for the leeks

First Mike prepared the leeks and the bacon for our side dish. As he cut down the leeks, he cooked the bacon in our Le Creuset pot. He then removed the bacon and the fat, reserving them for use later, leaving just those little bits of bacon flavor behind. He added in the leeks to let them sweat and cook down.

Bacon flavoring for the leeks

Set the bacon aside to use later

Adding the leeks so they can sweat down

Smashing the lemons helps get the juice flowing

I had no idea before I met Mike that if you roll the lemons and “smash” them before cutting them, you will get the juice flowing and make it much easier to get out afterwards.

Next we moved on to making the lemon, bacon & mustard vinaigrette. Mike juiced the lemons by hand, catching the seeds with his other hand. He then added the mustard and as he blended it with the stick blender, he added the bacon fat reserved from cooking down the bacon earlier. This helped to emulsify it all together to be a delicious addition to the leeks.

Mike juicing the lemons and catching the seeds

lemon juice, mustard and bacon fat

Adding the bacon fat to the vinaigrette

Preparing the parsley for finishing the snapper

Preparing the Vermilion Snapper

Coating the Vermilion Snapper with cornstarch

As the butter melts down, Mike prepared the Vermilion Snapper. He seasoned the fish with kosher salt and pepper, and since I am gluten free, he then coated them in corn starch instead of flour.

In to the pan, corn starch side down, and then coating the other side with more corn starch.

Vermilion Snapper in the pan

Vermilion Snapper in the pan, coating with corn starch

Vermilion Snapper in the pan, glazing with the pan juices

Once you turn the fish over, glaze the fish with the butter sauce that is in the pan to keep it moist and well flavored.

Adding the bacon to the leeks

With the fish almost ready, Mike added the lemon mustard vinaigrette and the reserved bacon to the leeks. He then added lemon juice to the butter sauce in the fish pan to make a sauce to pour over the fish.

Adding lemon juice to make a pan sauce

Pan sauce cooking down

Adding the pan sauce to the Vermilion Snapper

The finished plate! The verdict? I might just be converted from not liking fish. I actually ate a whole filet! The buttery lemon flavor was perfect, and the leeks with bacon were the perfect complement to the fish. Just strong enough to support it, but not overwhelm it in flavor. Delicious!

Recipe: Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

Yield: Serves 2

Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 2 snapper filets, cleaned and skin removed
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
  • Cornstarch
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • For the Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette:
  • One bunch of leeks, trimmed, quartered, sliced thin.
  • Four rashers of thick cut bacon (or six of regular bacon)
  • Dijon mustard
  • Juice of three lemons

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet over high heat, melt the butter until foaming subsides and the butter just begins to brown.
  2. Dust the fish with cornstarch, and pat off any excess. Place fish in skillet and cook on the first side until golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Flip the fish and cook until the other side is golden brown and the fish is cooked through, 3-4 minutes.
  3. Remove fish to warm plate. Return the pan to heat and squeeze lemon juice into butter. Stir to combine. Remove from heat.
  4. Serve fish on warm plate, spoon brown butter/lemon sauce over, and sprinkle parsley over top.
  5. For the Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette:
  6. In a medium pot over medium-low heat, render the bacon until crispy and dark golden.
  7. Remove the bacon to a small bowl and reserve. Pour out most of the bacon fat into another small bowl and reserve, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of the pot.
  8. Put the pot back on the heat, turn up to medium-high, and add the leeks to the pot. Give a generous pinch or two of salt (a couple of teaspoons), stir well, and cover. Let that sweat for 5-6 minutes until the leeks have cooked down and are soft.
  9. Meanwhile, while the leeks cook, mix the lemon juice and mustard in a bowl. Whisk in the bacon fat slowly (well, whisk vigorously, slowly add the fat) to form the dressing. Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper.
  10. (Note - the vinaigrette can be made in a snap with a stick blender an a pint glass or other tall container just larger than the blender head. Blend the juice and mustard, then with the blender running, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream.)
  11. Remove the pot of leeks from the heat and stir, scraping up any stuck bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the bacon pieces back to the pot, pour over the vinaigrette, and stir to combine.

Notes

Be sure to read the Cook's Notes: Vermilion Snapper Meunière with Leeks in Bacon Vinaigrette for tips on how the recipe came together, tips on the preparation process, making the dish gluten free, why Mike selected the leeks as a side dish, and the importance of finding local suppliers.

http://spoonandknife.com/vermilion-snapper-meuniere-with-leeks-in-bacon-vinaigrette/