Sunday Supper. One: Pan-Roasted Pink Snapper with Ginger & Bacon Bok Choy and Lemongrass Kaffir Lime Broth
In the spirit of one our favorite cookbooks by Suzanne Goin, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, we’ve decided to start cooking at home on Sundays. With access to so many good purveyors of food, such as McCall’s Meat & Fish Company, Spice Station, Cookbook, Silver Lake Cheese Store and farmer’s markets (Hollywood and Atwater Village), there’s no limit to the things we can cook at home. A few days ago, I paid Nathan McCall a visit and with much excitement, he pulled out a giant pink snapper fresh from Fiji. The skin was a gorgeous neon pink and well over 20 lbs. I’ve only had snapper in ceviche, sushi and deep-fried form, but never pan-seared. I snagged two fillets and the collarbone/cheek right away.
I love seafood and my favorite dish is cooked fish served on a bed of veggies in some sort of tasty broth. Before I had picked up the fillets, I was thinking about how I would prepare it while we sat at Pho So 1 in Reseda. My mother-in-law and I both ordered bun dishes which are served with a small bowl of Vietnamese dipping sauce (nuoc cham), which has a sweet and sour taste. I didn’t use that much of it and thought what a waste it was to not use it all. But then I thought about the pink snapper fillets I would cook and decided to take the sauce home to marinade them in it for the hell of it. At home I threw, the fillets in a Ziplock bag with all of the nuoc cham and added a few pieces of minced garlic and lemongrass stems that took a ride through the food processor. After about an hour, I took the fillets out, seared them in my trusty Lodge skillet and served it over ginger bok choy and a lemongrass and kaffir lime broth. It was delicious and light, with a slight sweetness/spiciness from the nuoc cham. The meat from the fish was moist and had more of a shredded “meat” texture versus your standard flaky fish. It was nice to taste something different. The fish, when eaten with the subtly “bacon-y” bok choy and broth rounds out quite nicely. I used Nueske bacon because I didn’t have any Chinese sausages in my fridge. Thanks for reading.
Ingredients (for 2-4 servings)
pink or red snapper fillets; skin-on
4-6 medium bok choy
Chopped Chinese sausage or 4-5 slices of Nueske Bacon
2 slices of ginger slivers (for sauté only)
4 cloves of minced garlic
3-4 tablespoons of shredded lemongrass stems
1 large leek
Salt & pepper
For Lemongrass & Kaffir Lime Broth
4 cups of water
4-5 soup spoons of Vietnamese fish sauce
2 small lumps of yellow rock sugar
3 cloves of whole garlic
2 slices of ginger
15 – 2″ pieces of lemongrass stalks (more if you’re a lemongrass enthusiast)
Kaffir lime leaves (shredded lime leaves work faster)
Bunch of Thai basil leaves
1-2 thai chilis or 2 red jalapeños
(1) I suggest marinating the fish in olive oil, salt & pepper, garlic and the shredded lemongrass stems. The nuoc cham marinade wasn’t strong enough, but if you’d like to try it, go for it. I’d add a bit more fish sauce depending on how thick your fillets are. Marinate for at least 2 hours, no more than a day.
(2) Start making the lemongrass and kaffir lime broth. Add the water, garlic, ginger and lemongrass stalks into a pot and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat so you can start doing the taste-testing. Add fish sauce and dissolve 1 small lump of rock sugar first, adding the other lump if needed. Once you have a nice balance of fish sauce, sweetness and aroma from the lemongrass, it’s time to add the kaffir lime leaves to achieve a flavor that resembles a very mild tom yum soup. I used 4 pinches of shredded lime leaves (3-4 leaves) to taste. Then you want to add a few Thai basil leaves at a time to extract the aroma. It is up to you what you ultimately want it to taste like. I found a balance from the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil. Add chopped Thai chiles or red jalapeno slices for a little spice kick. Once the broth is complete, turn the heat on low and remove the Thai basil leaves – they will make the soup bitter if you leave it in.
(3) Prepare bok choy by cleaning them properly and cutting off the stem so that the leaves are detached. On high heat, sauté the garlic, ginger slivers and Nueske bacon (for flavor) and salt & pepper to taste. Make sure these are sautéed 50% through as you’ll want them to have some crunch upon service. They will also be sitting in broth and will eventually soften. Set these aside or begin plating as in the photo above.
(4) Optional. Cut 1/8″ diagonal “coins” from the leek stem. I’d cut as many coins out from the leek as some of these are bound to be burnt or fall apart. Pan fry these on medium heat in oil till they are nice and brown on both sides. It should have a nice crispness to it. Set aside when finished.
(4) Turn oven to 450 degrees. Add salt & pepper on all sides of the snapper fillet. Sear the snapper fillets skin-side down on medium heat with your oil of choice for about 4-5 mintues. Make sure that you get a nice crust on the skin as the snapper skin is a bit more rubbery like chicken skin. Carefully flip the fillets over without ruining the skin and put the skillet in the oven for another 5-7 minutes, depending on your cuts. Take fillets out and set aside.
(5) Bring the lemongrass and kaffir lime broth to a boil and make sure the broth is seasoned well and has not become salty from water loss. Place fish on top of the bed of bok choy and add the broth around the fish, careful not to get the fillets wet. Garnish with leek “coins” and thinly-sliced red jalapeños or Thai chiles. I like to put the whole plated dish back into the oven for a good 5 minutes to ensure a super hot plate – it tastes better that way. Enjoy.