Saturday, October 12, 2013

Keeping my promise: Pernod-Marinated Snapper

Back in June, when we made a fish soup that required Pernod (or other pastis-type apéritif), I promised that if you bought it for that dish, I would give you another that would use it.
            Just to refresh your memory, pastis (pronounced past-eese) is the regional drink of the Midi area in Southeastern France. It is typically served on ice, with a generous splash of water. It has an anise flavor, which some don´t care for as a beverage, but it is great for cooking, especially when using seafood. There are several brands of pastis available here; I use Pernod.
            I had invited neighbors for a casual dinner. A trip to the farmers’ market netted tiny zucchini, some beautiful tomatoes and a couple of skin-on filets of red snapper.  I wanted to put the fish on the grill, and I find that the filets with skin-on hold together better.  If you’d rather, this can be done under the broiler of your oven, or on a pre-heated cast iron grill pan on top of the stove for about the same amount of time.
            There’s a marinade I’ve been making for years, using pastis.  It is also delicious on other seafood.  It’s particularly good on shrimp.  You can also use it on salmon, but leave out the tomatoes in the re-warmed marinade that you’ll serve as a sauce.
            After removing the fish the reserved marinade is brought to a simmer and cooked for a few minutes. Then fresh tomato, chopped, is added to complete the sauce. We can still get good tomatoes, but when the fresh tomato season is over, you will still have great success with canned diced tomato, drained.
            It is important not to leave the fish (or other seafood) in this marinade for more than about 30 minutes.  Any longer and the flesh of the fish will take on a “cooked” appearance and will have an unpleasant texture when grilled.
            I made a simple rice pilaf to go along with this. I also split the zucchini lengthwise and brushed a little of the marinade on the cut side and cooked them on the grill beside the fish.
            Altogether a very nice dinner for an early autumn evening!
Southern French Snapper
½ cup olive oil
½ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup Pernod, or other pastis-type liquor
1 tablespoon whole fennel seed
4 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon finely ground pepper
1 ½ pounds snapper filet, skin on (see note)
3 large tomatoes, cored and diced
            In a glass bowl, mix the olive oil, vinegar and pastis. In a mortar and pestle crush the fennel seeds slightly, or put them on a chopping block and chop coarsely with a sharp knife. Add to the bowl with the garlic, salt and pepper.
            Put the snapper in a plastic bag and add one half cup of the marinade, reserving the rest.  Place in a flat pan and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes, turning once about halfway through. 
            Preheat a charcoal or gas grill. Place the reserved marinade in a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Let cook for a couple of minutes, then add the diced tomato.  Let it simmer for about five more minutes.
            Remove the snapper from the marinade. Spray the grill grates generously with cooking spray, or brush with vegetable oil.  Place flesh side down and cook for about five minutes.  With a spatula, turn carefully and cook skin-side down for another four to five minutes.
            Remove the fish filets to a platter and ladle on the sauce. Divide into four portions and serve immediately.
NOTE: Other full flavored firm-fleshed white fish can be used, such as amberjack or cod. 
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