Red snapper in creole sauce: A fiery taste of Guadeloupe
In Guadeloupe, women rule the restaurant industry, and they have their own idea of what a court-bouillon should be, said Maricel Presilla in Peppers of the Americas (Lorena Jones Books). Yes, the island has been a French territory since 1674, and a refined French culinary sensibility “suffuses even the most traditional dishes.” But Guadeloupeans long ago fell in love with a Scotch bonnet pepper, called piment, that adds “biting heat” to the recipe below.
In France, “court-bouillon” means a quick broth made for poaching fish or poultry. In Guadeloupe, the phrase refers to any seafood seasoned in a citrusy marinade and cooked in a garlicky tomato sauce colored by achiote. This version, from Madame Jeanne Carmelite of La Nouvelle Table Créole, comes with a tangy table sauce. Serve the dish with red beans and rice, accompanied by a dry Sancerre or a Malbec rosé.
Recipe of the week
Madame Carmelite’s red snapper in creole sauce
2 yellow Bonda Ma Jacques, Scotch bonnet, or habanero peppers, seeded and finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste Sea salt
3 lbs (about 4 small) red snapper fillets
¼ cup achiote seeds
Extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
6 scallions, including 3 inches of green tops, rinsed and finely chopped
2 beefsteak tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
½ tsp minced fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup fish or chicken broth
½ cup dry white wine
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, combine 1 minced pepper, juice of 1 lime, 3 mashed garlic cloves, and 1 tsp salt. Rub fish fillets with marinade, cover plate or container tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit in refrigerator for 30 minutes to no more than 2 hours.
Prepare achiote oil: Place achiote seeds and ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat until oil turns orangered. Set aside to cool, then strain.
While oil cools, make table sauce: In a small bowl, stir together 2 mashed garlic gloves, the juice of the remaining lime, 1 minced pepper, parsley, 2 to 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, and ½ tsp salt. Set aside.
To cook the fish: Heat achiote oil in a 12-inch skillet. Add onion and scallions and sauté 2 minutes. Add tomato, thyme, and bay leaf; cook 1 minute. Add fish fillets and cook 1 minute per side. Pour in broth and wine; season with 1½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. Cook for 3 minutes or until fish is done; it will firm up and flake easily when pierced with a fork. Spoon cooked sauce onto a platter and arrange fish over it; place table sauce in a bowl on the side. Serves 4.