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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
- 2 snapper filets, cleaned and skin removed
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- 2 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
- 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
- In a large skillet over high heat, melt the butter until foaming subsides and the butter just begins to brown.
- 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.
- Remove fish to warm plate. Return the pan to heat and squeeze lemon juice into butter. Stir to combine. Remove from heat.
- Serve fish on warm plate, spoon brown butter/lemon sauce over, and sprinkle parsley over top.
- In a medium pot over medium-low heat, render the bacon until crispy and dark golden.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- (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.)
- 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.
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.