Monday, August 08, 2005

Home Alone 1: Snapper

Red Snapper with Warm Tomato Vinaigrette and Green Pea Purée

Blanca, the resident zarzamora teacher, has gone off to Spain to try and find us somewhere to live. Tragically, I’m left in London for the next week to fend for myself. I did the obvious thing; look for a friend whose husband was away for the weekend. As a result, by lunchtime I had met with Claire and we’d decided to have a dinner party in the evening.

The kick of a morning coffee gave us some unwarranted confidence. We decided to crossbreed two menus from “fish” and make the red snapper with green pea purée. An unnecessarily complicated trip to Northcote Road gave us most of the ingredients. The fish mongers supplied 5 nice snappers. Somerfield gave us the rest of dry ingredients with the mint, thyme and chives coming from the food stalls on the road. “Northcote Merchants: proud sponsors of all your culinary exploits”.

Prior to actually cooking Blanca managed to ignore three phone calls from me; I recall her parting words; “… you need to get more confidence in the kitchen. Stop bugging me”…

Early evening, with the Lydons (John, Anthea, Charlie and Muireann) due in 45 minutes, we somewhat shabbily started cooking. Now, Claire is pregnant so has a reason for forgetfulness, but there really is no good excuse for me forgetting; a blender, blanched almonds, soy sauce and spring onions. A quick return trip to Northcote meant that we managed to recommence cooking at 6.45 with only 15 minutes left before they are due. Luckily, being culinarily humble, Claire had told them that we were having… er, logistical issues and to delay until 7.30. The Lydons were polite enough to realise that we were under pressure. They arrived at 8.10 and we were finished in the kitchen by half past (8).

In the plating rush we didn't get a chance to take a photo of the purée, you can see it above, the center of attention... pea purée, you old charmer.

Pea Purée
1 onion, chopped
60 g butter
250 g peas
200 g potato (chopped)
200 ml chicken stock
1 sprig of mint
1 sprig of thyme
3 tbsp single cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion in half the butter. Add the peas, potato, stock, mint, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer until the potato is cooked. Purée. Add the cream and remaining butter. The finished mash should be liquidy, but not overly so. You can reheat this when required.

Given that we’re Irish and we knew that Charlie would appreciate dining on pea and potato for the week, we trebled the ingredients. It isn't that Charlie is a big pea and potato fan, he is 9 months old and doesn't have a choice.

Claire models the snapper with tomato vinaigrette. Ever the consumate host, she doesn't even seem surprised that we managed to pull-off the meal.

Ingredients for warm tomato vinaigrette
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 tsp chopped chives
1 shallot very finely chopped
85 ml olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Put all the ingredients into a pan and cook until warm. In fact we cooked until the life was boiling out of it, but we can blame this on the fact that we were having our starters. There was no discernable loss of taste or flavour, but that could be due to the wine.

5 snappers
Juice of ½ lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Lemon chopped

The snappers are straightforward to cook; snip the fins and make diagonal slashes across the thickest parts of both sides of the fish. Season inside and out. It is recommended to leave for at least half an hour before cooking.

Claire and Simon’s grill doesn’t work and frying seemed like too much effort so we cooked in the oven; 250 degrees for 12 minutes. To be honest, their oven doesn’t really work either (even if they had no grill, it would in fact work better than the oven). In oven time, we were cooking for 30 minutes. In fact, the only people that can advise on how long the snappers took to cook are John and his sister Muireann. Thek cook some good snappers. John got his boning badge tonight (ahem) by showing Claire how to remove the bones from the snapper. He also lost his boning badge tonight by making me eat a fish eye (tough and kind of indigestible).

A quick dig into Alan Davidson’s “North Atlantic Seafood” revealed very little information on the snapper. It was odd that the only reference seemed to be as a pseudonym for Bluefish (family Pomatomidae). Not only does the Bluefish bear no resemblance, but it seems more similar to the oily mackerel. “Fish” gave a more meaningful description of an exotic fish originally being imported into the UK from The Seychelles, now readily available. It goes on to explain some of the difficulties with snapper. There are over 200 species to choose from. Red and Yellowtail are amongst the favourites. It is a good fish to bake whole, they can be grilled, baked, poached, steamed, fried and eaten raw.

Furthering my misgivings, “Fish” references a similar fish called “Jobfish”. “North Atlantic Seafood” does not even reference this. Could it be that Mr. Davidson does not like snapper?

p.s. OK, before anyone comments, the clue was pretty much in the title. The "North Atlantic Seafood” doesn’t reference snapper, because it pretty much only deals with, eh, north atlantic seafood. Snapper is found in the tropical and subtropical regions of all the oceans.

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