baked snapper

WaterLine photo by Chef Tim Spain

What is an American red snapper? I don’t know if there’s any difference between a red snapper in Mexican waters or in American waters. Seems like we just decided they’re ours.

I don’t know all the rules about harvesting them either. (That’s what our weekly regulations page is for.) I just know as a chef, they are very good on the table, and people seem to want to eat them more than or snappers I’ve offered over the years. I believe that mangrove snapper are the best snapper in the waters around here, partly because I don’t have the gear to go far enough out to catch a red. I’d like to catch one someday, take it home and turn it into something wonderful in my kitchen.

I’d probably bake it and top it with a herbs and bread crumbs, and maybe throw a few pistachios into the mix as well. The nuts will add a nice texture to the snapper’s fine meat. Then I would make a cream sauce reduction with some lemon, garlic and a pinch of salt.

This is an easy way to cook this dish. It’s all about the timing and, like I always say, having everything you need already in front of you before you begin to cook. Remember that when you’re cooking anything. It just makes life easier when you’re trying to cook a nice meal and entertain at the same time. The last thing you want to happen is for the fish to be just about done and realize you’ve forgotten something you needed to finish the dish. Trying to make a cream sauce reduction while your fish sits on your counter after coming out of the oven is a bad idea — unless you prefer your fish cold or overcooked because you had to heat it back up so make the sauce first.

The sauce is easy. Just sauté some fresh chopped garlic and lemon zest with a small amount of oil and some white wine. When the wine has reduced by half, add your heavy cream. Reduce that by half and then turn the heat to low to keep it warm.

For the breadcrumbs the fish will be topped with, I use Panko bread crumbs. I put them into the food processor and add my herbs and blend. While the chopper is turning, add some oil. Adding oil allows the breadcrumbs to stay in the oven longer without burning.

Finally, I add the nuts and use the pulse button to rough-chop the nuts. I don’t want the nuts chopped as fine as the bread crumbs and herbs. I like to have some texture, so I try to chop them to about twice the size of the bread crumbs.

You can use a simple egg wash to help them stick to the fish, but you don’t really have to do this step if you are just going to top the fish with them. Just be careful when you plate the fillets so the breadcrumbs don’t fall off your fish.

Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.

Panko baked red snapper

4 6-ounce fresh red snapper fillets

2 cups panko bread crumbs

1 bunch fresh parsley

1/4 cup plus 1 tsp cooking oil

1/2 cup roasted pistachios

2 tbsp fresh chopped garlic, divided

Pinch salt

Zest and juice of one lemon

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream

Place the bread crumbs, 1 tbsp garlic, parsley, and salt in your chopper and blend until smooth. While it’s turning, add the oil and let it chop for one minute and turn it off. Now add the nuts and pulse the chopper about five times or until the nuts are chopped but you can still see them. On medium heat, sauté the rest of your garlic lemon zest in 1 tsp of oil and wine and reduce by half. Add cream; reduce that by half and keep warm. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Dry fillets with a paper towel and season them with salt and pepper both sides. Spray a cookie pan. Place snapper fillets bone side up and top with bread crumb mix. Bake for 7 minutes, then remove them from the oven and plate next to your cream sauce reduction. Serve with your favorite sides, like garlic mash and fresh vegetables. Get of a nice bottle of dry white wine and enjoy. Serves 4.

— Recipe by Chef Tim Spain, ChefTimSpain.com

Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.

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