|Everything you need, all lined up! The simplicity of|
Snapper St. John depends on the quality of the ingredients.
The difference in great and merely good depends on your
success at the fish market and grocery store.
|Nice clear eye. Lots of salt and pepper, too.|
3 Slices Bacon -- Ever wonder why some bacon is cheap and others expensive? Is there a difference in the bacon at the Piggly Wiggly and the expensive stuff you can get online? Sure. The expensive stuff is thicker and leaner, and it costs a lot more. Here, use something tasty, but no need to go overboard on the lean part! We're looking for fat here, baby!
For some expensive stuff see:
Concerning the head of the fish -- If you don't like serving the fish with the head on -- you should be sentenced to a month of eating nothing but Bunny Bread, Fanta lemon-lime soda and spray cheese (the yellowish orange stuff that squirts out of the little can).
No squealing or saying "ick" or "yuck," either. To do so is on a par with stacking dishes at the table.
Snapper St. John is good served with Baldwin County new potatoes (OK, Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana spuds are good, too) and grilled or roasted eggplant.
Eggplant is particularly appropriate, to honor the Lebanese heritage of my late friend, Fr. Anthony Zogby.
He would say "yuck" at a fish with its head on. After all, he did not like seafood gumbo (more than a venial sin at St. John's Parish.) He called it "soup with little dead animals floating in it." It is a wonder that the women of the parish did not kill him and burn his body on a pyre of shrimp shells and crab-bodies.
Ironically, his cousin, Paul Zoghby, is pastor of the church next door to my office. When I ask him about the real Fr. Zhogby, he just smiles -- they never knew one another.
|The Big Dude, Ignatius Loyola|
But, oh, what a wonderful thing love can be!
After being unfazed by a Jesuit education at Loyola in New Orleans and numerous forays involving young Catholic coeds, I met Frances Barrett at a small newspaper in Louisiana. I brought her home to meet the parents in Alabama. She was very pretty, and had a Louisiana accent that charmed my mother. The fact that she was, ahem ... Catholic ... didn't come up. A few months later she gave me a set of books, "Catholicism," by Richard P. McBrien. In short order I married Frances, read the books, converted to HMC/OTC and have been a Mackerel Snapper ever since. I took my first Communion in Bon Secour, Ala., from Father Zoghby. He was very proud. "When I saw you," he later told Frances, "I knew I had him!" I never had the heart to tell Father Zoghby that if Frances had been Buddhist, I'd have been talking about karma that night, rather than confessing sins. So much for the OTC (One True Church).
*Holy Mother Church, of course.
Let's cook this fish ...
I've got to say, there is not a lot of hard cooking here.The techniques are much easier than finding the red snapper!
Place fish, rubbed with salt and pepper, on strips of bacon in roasting pan. Easy. Season this fish well, inside and out. If you want to make this a little more of a tribute to Father Zoghby, put a little rosemary in the cavity. Salt and pepper the fish well. Use kosher salt. It's just nicer. The bacon is a smart way to add some flavor and keep the fish from sticking to the pan.
Add water and cover. Get out the heavy-duty aluminum foil. Don't use cheap tin foil. It is an abomination unto the Lord. (We call it tin foil here, like ice box -- silly, but that's how we roll.) Put the 2 tablespoons of water in the pan and cover tightly.
Let the fish steam, tightly covered, in a 400-degree preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes. This makes a real difference. The fish is cooking in the hot oven, without drying out the goodies that are to come later. Don't try to skip this step.
Saute Tomatoes, onions and garlic in butter.
If you don't have a saute pan, get one. Go to the restaurant supply store (Sam's if you must) and get two all-aluminum saute pans. They last forever, and can go in the oven (take the little plastic handle cover off). The curved side of the pan makes the food jump (Saut is French for "jump"). When you move the pan back and forth -- not up and down -- the food "jumps" up. You catch it and do it again. That's how you evenly coat the food. Besides, it looks really cool.
If you don't know how to do this, go in the kitchen early on a Saturday morning and practice with a pan full of dried beans. If you aren't good at doing this at first, practice outside!
Add tomato juice and cayenne. The liquid and pepper are the rest of the sauce.
Bring to a boil. The idea here is to make a sauce with the liquid, onions and tomatoes. If you have a stove like the one pictured (with 16,000 BTU --British Thermal Units-- gas burners) it is quick and easy to get a good sauce -- and right now too! If you have a household gas range, you've got about 9,000 BTUs to work with.
If you have an electric range, at which point I will call you out as a pansy or a person who didn't pick the stove you have to cook on, you have about 8,500 BTUs on the big eye.
Jane Coleman cooked on an electric stove. I didn't use gas until I went away to college (in New Orleans, no less) and cooked on a 20-inch gas range. I've never cooked on an electric stove since, and unless I get drafted into the Navy to cook on a submarine, I don't intend to ever cook on electric again.
My sister loves her electric stove (or pretends to). She says it is so easy to clean. If you want clean, buy a washing machine. If you want to cook -- get a stove.
Pour this over fish. That's the ticket! See how the sauce is thick and cooked and good?
This same kind of simple pan sauce is good over pasta and a lot of other things. This is the kind of quick simple cooking that makes this fun!
Serves 6 Or 8 or as many as you can feed on the size fish you have. I always garnish with parsley under the gills, with the obligatory lemon peel eye patch. You can use a little black olive and achieve a variety of comic effects. Nothing like a fish looking at you. You may even scare your children's beaus, if you dare. (See last week's post)
Next Week, The Best Recipe in The Book. Seafood Gumbo
Plain Text Recipe