- YIELD: 4 servings
- TIME: 30 minutes
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.