Best enjoyed using local snapper, this bright dish represents the protein part of fish and fungi, a classic duo on dinner tables in the Virgin Islands. The fish is topped with plenty of thyme-laced, tomato-based Creole sauce and is typically served over a bed of fungi, the classic Virgin Islands side dish of buttery cooked cornmeal with sliced, boiled okra. Michael Anthony Watson and Judy Watson, husband-and-wife owners of Petite Pump Room in St. Thomas, traditionally use whole fried snapper for this recipe, but you can use fish fillets. For authenticity, serve them with plenty of hot sauce on the side for a little extra heat.
FOR THE CREOLE SAUCE:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium yellow onions, halved and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 green bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
4 fresh thyme sprigs
4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
4 teaspoons seasoning salt, such as Creole seasoning or Lawry’s
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
FOR THE PAN-FRIED SNAPPER:
⅓ cup vegetable oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons seasoning salt, such as Creole seasoning or Lawry’s
4 skin-on red snapper fillets (about 6 ounces each)
Hot sauce (optional)
Prepare the sauce: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium until shimmering. Add the onions, red and green bell peppers and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and just starting to brown, about 7 minutes.
Stir in the tomato sauce, thyme and 1 3/4 cups water; bring to a boil over high.
Stir in the white vinegar and seasoning salt, reduce the temperature to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.
Meanwhile, prepare the fish: Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium. On a large plate, mix the flour and seasoning salt with a fork.
Pat the snapper fillets dry using paper towels, and season 2 fillets with salt and pepper before dipping them into the flour mixture until coated on both sides.
Once the oil is shimmering, gently lay the floured fillets in the hot oil, skin-side down, and cook until skin is crispy, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a fish spatula, carefully flip fillets and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until cooked through.
Transfer the fish to a large paper-towel-lined plate. Cover loosely with foil and repeat with the remaining fillets.
Divide fish among plates, skin side up, and top with the Creole sauce. Serve immediately, passing hot sauce at the table.
Crispy-yet-juicy chicken thighs meet their match in nutty, saffron-infused couscous for a new dinner party favourite from Shahir Massoud’s Eat, Habibi, Eat!
1 cup harissa
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 lb chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
Saffron Israeli couscous
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups Israeli couscous
Pinch of salt
¼ cup saffron butter
1 cup butter
1 tsp saffron threads
In a large mixing bowl, combine the harissa, olive oil, garlic, brown sugar and ¼ cup water. Add the chicken, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or even marinate overnight.
Bring the chicken to room temperature and preheat the oven to 400 F. Reserve the excess marinade, but pat the chicken dry to help with the sear. Season with salt.
Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, skin side down, and sear for 1 to 2 minutes. Flip over and transfer to a plate or sheet pan. Work in batches if necessary, to avoid overcrowding the pan.
Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the reserved marinade and bring to a boil. Add the chicken back to the pan, in one layer, and roast in the oven for about 35 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 F.
Serve each plate with some couscous on the bottom, topped with a chicken thigh and some of the remaining sauce.
Saffron Israeli couscous
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the couscous and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, allowing the couscous to brown and achieve a nutty, more complex flavour.
Cover with 5 cups water and salt, then bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 to 16 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the couscous is al dente.
Finish by stirring in the saffron butter and an additional pinch of salt if needed.
Melt the butter and saffron in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to infuse for 5 to 10 minutes.
Transfer to a blender and blend until very smooth.
Transfer to a resealable plastic container and allow to cool, then refrigerate for up to 10 days.
Huevos rancheros, or “ranchers’ eggs”, is a classic Mexican breakfast. Fried eggs are nested in a bed of refried beans, sour cream and salsa and served atop a warm tortilla. Try adding a bit of your favourite hot sauce for a touch of heat.
Serves: 4 Prep Time: 10 min Cook Time: 10 min
4 large corn tortillas
2 tsp (10 mL) vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups (315 mL) salsa
1 cup (250 mL) refried pinto beans, warmed
1/2 cup (125 mL) low fat sour cream
1/3 cup (75 mL) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
1 small avocado, diced (optional)
Preheat oven to 200°F (100°C).
If tortillas are soft, spread out on the counter and let dry for 5 minutes.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat; heat tortillas one at a time, about 5 seconds on each side. Using tongs, transfer onto paper towels and keep warm in preheated 200°F (100°C) oven.
Break 4 eggs into same skillet and cook until whites are set and yolks are done as desired. Transfer to baking sheet and keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining eggs.
Remove tortillas from oven, place on individual plates and spread 1/4 cup (50 mL) salsa and 1/4 cup (50 mL) refried beans on each. Top each with two eggs. Spoon 1 tbsp (15 mL) salsa over each egg leaving yolk exposed. Spoon 2 tbsp (30 mL) sour cream over salsa. Sprinkle equal amounts of cheese, cilantro, and avocado (if using) over each serving. Serve immediately.