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Poached Snapper by Julia and Jacques (Julia)



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Red Snapper, 1880
Red Snapper, 1880
S.a. Kilbourne
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La Belle Cuisine


Poached Snapper by Julia and Jacques

Julia and Jacques
Cooking at Home

Julia Child and Jacques Pepin,
1999, Alfred A. Knopf


“French chefs have long understood the simplicity and creative possibilities
of poaching fish. In ‘Le Repertoire de la Cuisine’, the authoritative but
surprisingly slim compendium of classical French dishes, you can find over
250 different preparations for poached fish fillets in white wine. (All 7,500
condensed recipes are in the English edition of this invaluable guide, for
which Jacques wrote the introduction.)
Here we give you only two such recipes, but they show why poaching in wine
is an essential method for American home cooks as well as French chefs: It
is quick, nearly foolproof, and marvelously adaptable to different tastes and
With our basic techniques, you can take almost any fresh fillet that catches your
eye at the fish counter and cook it perfectly in just a few minutes, preserving its distinctive flavor. And you can use the wine you like and the seasonings and vegetables you have on hand, and finish the dish as simply or as fancifully as
your time allows.
Both our recipes call for fillets of red snapper, a tasty fish with moderately firm
flesh that’s well suited for poaching. There are different types of red snapper in
various parts of the country. The one we use, with its distinctive pink tint and
round profile, come from Florida and is widely available, but many other fish
varieties are marketed under the same name, not all of which have the same
flavor and texture. Check with your fishmonger to be sure of what you’re get-
ting. If he’s selling whole fish, you can have them filleted, or do it yourself…[illustrated procedure included in cookbook]. Make sure that the fillets are
scaled, if you are poaching them with the skin, and save the head and bones
for a fine fish stock. Snapper fillets will vary in thickness, and you have to
adjust your cooking time accordingly. Use the amount of liquid given in the
recipes, and only allow it to bubble slowly while the fillets are poaching.
… One of the rewards of poaching is the cooking liquid, which unites the
flavors of the fillets, the wine, and the seasonings. In the recipes here, we turn
the poaching liquid into different sauces – Jacques’s becomes a classic velouté
and Julia’s a rich beurre blanc. These procedures are interchangeable and
you can use them with any similar recipe. For the simplest finish, you can also
just reduce the poaching juices. Jacques’s Cucumbers Tournés, a traditional
‘turned’ garnish for fish, makes a colorful presentation as well as a pleasing
textured contrast to either of our poached fillets.
A fragrant, spicy white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc, is essential in these
dishes, both for the poaching liquid (though Julia prefers vermouth) and to
accompany the fish. A California Chardonnay is always appropriate.”


“There’s lots of room for choice and improvisation in these poaching recipes, as in most of our cooking. Jacques likes to use fillets with the skin on, but I prefer the
skin off, and I score the skinned or ‘milky’ side to keep them from curling. Use
whatever aromatic or seasonings you like or have available. If you don’t have
shallots, use scallions. If you like garlic, add some.
The more classical oven-poaching has you arrange the seasoned fillets in a buttered flameproof baking dish with their sprinkling of shallots and their poaching liquid. You bring them just to the simmer on top of the stove, cover them with buttered wax or parchment paper to protect and to help steam as well as bake them. You slip them into you preheated 350° F oven and they usually need 7 to 10 minutes.
When are they done? Whichever way you poach your fish fillets – oven or stovetop – they are done when the color has changed from translucent (not solid white) to opaque (milky white). The flesh is no longer squashy and raw; it has taken on
texture, and is lightly springy to the touch. When just done the juices have swelled
in the flesh and are ready to escape; you can begin to smell cooking fish. That is
the moment you are waiting for. A little longer and the juices will have left the
flesh; you have overcooked your fish, it will have stiffened and the flesh will flake.
[I still recall the first time I heard Julia explain this phenomenon on TV. I was shocked! How many times have you heard or read that we are to cook fish until the flesh flakes – the ultimate doneness test. Could Julia possibly be right, I wondered. Well don’t take my word for it, and you don’t have to take hers either, I suppose.
Just try it for yourself. I did, and I could not agree more. The lady knows whereof
she speaks. Of course!]


Julia on Cooking with Wine, Especially with White Wine

“Finding a white wine suitable for cooking is more of a problem, I think, than finding a red. What you want in a red wine is a frank, healthy wine you’d be as
happy to drink as you would be to cook with – a French Mâcon is ideal, as is an Italian Chianti, or a California Zinfandel. In whites, you are looking for a full-bodied dry wine that will not sour your sauce. Again the French Mâcon is my
choice, but where do I find a reasonably priced bottle here? That is why I have
always turned to dry white French Vermouth, which gives the flavor and body
of white wine but none of the acid. I use about two-thirds cup of vermouth for
every cup of white wine called for. An added plus is that you can always have
a preciously opened bottle of vermouth in your refrigerator, but not an opened
bottle of white wine.”


Julia’s Stove-top Poached Fillets
of Red Snapper with Mushrooms
and Fast White Butter Sauce

“Fillets of fish poached in white wine with mushrooms, always an attractive
dish, especially when served in a white butter sauce. I had never done a fast
one until I saw Jacques make it some years ago on one of his TV shows.
I love the old-fashioned version [included in cookbook], but I like this, my
version of Jacques’s, too – and it is fast!”

Yield: 1 or 2 fillets, serving 2

2 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots
Approximately 10 ounces skinless
red snapper fillets
A big pinch of salt
Several grindings of white pepper
2/3 cup dry white French Vermouth, plus
1/3 cup fish stock, or water
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms

For the sauce beurre blanc
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 or 5 tablespoons room-temperature
butter, in tablespoon-sized pieces
Salt and pepper
Drops of lemon juice

For garnish
Chopped parsley
Cucumbers Tournés, optional

Special equipment: A stainless-steel frying pan, 10 inches top diameter,
with tight-fitting lid; a buttered paper cover ; a 6-cup stainless steel sauce-
pan and a medium whisk, for the sauce

Set the pan over moderate heat, swirl in the butter, sprinkle in the shallots,
and cook slowly for a moment to soften without coloring. Remove from
heat. Season the fillets on both sides with the salt and pepper and lay them
in the pan, skin side down. Pour in the liquids, adding more if needed to
come halfway up the fish. Scatter the sliced mushrooms over the fish and
fit the paper into the pan, buttered side down.
Put on the lid and bring the liquid just to the simmer. Adjust the heat to maintain very slow bubbling and poach about 5 minutes for thin fillets
(1/2 inch or less), or more for thicker fillets. Pierce the center of a fillet
with a sharp knife to make sure that the flesh is opaque, or cooked, throughout.

Making the sauce
Then, holding the cover askew, drain all of the poaching liquid into the
small saucepan. Keep the fillets warm in the covered poaching pan while
you make the sauce.
Set the saucepan over high heat, add the lemon juice, and rapidly boil the poaching juices until there is only a tablespoon of syrupy liquid remaining. Lower the heat to a gentle boil, pick up a tablespoon-sized lump of butter
with the tip of the whisk, and rapidly whip it into the hot liquid. As soon as
the butter is nearly absorbed, whish in 3 more lumps of butter, one at a
time, incorporating each completely before adding the next and keeping
the liquid at a gentle boil.
When the butter has all been incorporated, taste the sauce and season
with salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste. Remove from the heat.
Pour any juices that have accumulated around the fillets into another
small pan; boil down rapidly to a syrup and whisk into the sauce.

Remove the fillets to warm plates or platters. Spoon the sauce over
them and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately, with
warm Cucumbers Tournés alongside, if you have prepared them.

Jacques's Poached Red Snapper Provençal

Featured Archive Recipes:
Mario Batali's Snapper Livornese
Fillets of Snapper Wrapped in Grape Leaves
Plantation Gardens Red Snapper
Salmon en Papillote  (Julia & Jacques)

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