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Higher Learning: Seared Red Snapper, Braised Swiss Chard, Pickled Chard Stems, Snapper Broth

Higher Learning: Seared Red Snapper, Braised Swiss Chard, Pickled Chard Stems, Snapper Broth
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Vivek is back! And we are all smarter for it.

Fall is quite possibly my favorite season. Besides having my favorite holiday of the year (Thanksgiving!), it is incredibly beautiful outside with the leaves changing color to all different shades of red, orange, and yellow, and the food I want to eat warms me up from the inside. Soups and stews that cook on the stove for hours and make the house smell delicious are what I crave.

I was at my fishmonger the other day and he had a beautiful 3 lb red snapper that he fished out from the gulf the day before. I bought the whole fish and new instantly that I was going to make some kind of soup out of it. Halfway through making the stock, however, I changed my mind because it ended up being about 60 degrees outside! Where was my fall weather?! Alas, we adapted.

I figured a sauce made out of the broth would be delicious. So, I fileted the fish and threw all the bones, the head, and the tail in a pot with spices and aromatics to make a delicious broth. I stashed the filets in the fridge until I was ready for them. The broth simmered while I was watching the football games.

To make the actual sauce, I took all my favorite ingredients – bacon, onion, peppers, tomatoes, herbs and cooked them until they were almost like a pulp, to which I then added this gorgeous homemade fish broth. The sauce kept reducing until it was a beautiful consistency and intensely flavored.

Towards the end, I cooked the greens and seared the fish. This truly is a great dish on those days where you just want to lounge around the house, check on the meal once or twice, and relax. The flavors are bright and incredible. The fish is a piece of piscatorial perfection, the broth is savory and has such depth of flavor that it’s a show stopper. The pickled chard stems, a great way to use up those parts, provides acidity and crunch. A great balance of flavor and texture, this is one dish you will surely want to try!

Seared Red Snapper, Braised Swiss Chard, Pickled Chard Stems, Snapper Broth
(recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti)

For the seared red snapper:
4 filets of red snapper, make sure there are no bones, cut into 3 pieces each
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Get a non stick pan over medium high heat and add about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Once the oil is almost smoking, lay the fish in the pan skin side down (must be done in batches). Let the fish get really crispy on the skin side (you want to do about 85% of the cooking on this side). After about 4 minutes, flip it over and cook the fish for about another 1 minute on the other side or until it is done. Remove the fish to a plate lined with paper towels, and repeat until all the fish is cooked.

Braised Swiss Chard:
1 bunch of Swiss chard, leaves removed from stem and coarsely chopped
½ onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a pan over medium heat and sweat the onions in a little bit of olive oil or butter. Once the onion is translucent, but not brown, about 7 minutes, add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and vinegar. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add the greens and toss to coat with the onion-garlic mixture. Once the greens have wilted, add about ¼ cup of water and let cook for about 10 minutes until the greens are very tender and all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Pickled Swiss Chard Stems:
Leftover stems from bunch of chard, cut into diagonals about 1/8” wide
1 cup of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
6 sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt

In a small pot, put in the vinegar, coriander seed, thyme, sugar, and salt, and bring to a boil. Once the sugar and salt have dissolved, cut the heat. Pour the pickling liquid over the Swiss chard stems. Let the chard pickle for as little as 6 hours and up to 2 days in advance.

Saffron-Snapper Broth:
Leftover bones, heads, tails from snapper
2 turnips, quartered
1 onion, quartered
5 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon black pepper seeds
A handful of parsley
A handful of thyme
1 lemon, zested
2 kaffir lime leaves

3 slices of bacon, diced
1 onion, minced
2 bell peppers, diced
1 large tomato, diced
4 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs oregano tied together with butcher’s twine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons butter

Put the leftover bones in a pot with all the other stock ingredients. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface. DO NOT SEASON WITH SALT. Simmer for about 2 hours and then strain everything through a cheesecloth. Discard the solids.

In a saucepan over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook the bacon until almost crisp. Add the onion, bell peppers, and tomato. Season with just a pinch of salt (no more) and cook until the vegetables are extremely translucent and almost pulp-like. The idea is to cook all the water out of these vegetables. Add the garlic, thyme-oregano bundle and cook for another minute. Add the white wine to deglaze the pan and then reduce until there is barely any wine left. Slowly add the stock and leave the pan over high heat. Reduce the stock until it has reduced to about 2 cups of liquid. Strain the stock and discard the solids. Continue simmering the stock, and mount it with the butter. Now, season to taste with salt and pepper. Feel free to add the juice of 1 lemon to brighten up all the flavors.

To Assemble:
Place a mound of braised greens on the plate and surround with the fish. Ladle some broth around the fish and top with the pickled chard stems.

Vivek T. Surti

Editor’s Note: Please check out Vivek’s blog and also follow him on Twitter!