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Poached Snapper by Julia and Jacques  (Jacques)



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St. Tropez, Cote d'Azur, Provence, France
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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.”


“The quickness of poaching is a great advantage to the cook, but it means that
you must have all of your garnishes, your sauce ingredients [mise en place, mise
en place, mise en place!], and everything else ready to serve as soon as the fillets
are done – you don’t want them to sit around. If you must prepare your fish ahead, you can cook them in the poaching liquid very briefly, so they are still basically
just raw in the center. Then you can set the pan in a low oven, about 180 degrees
 F, covered with parchment, and let the fillets finish cooking for 15 minutes or so.
People worry about what kind of wine to cook with. While you don’t need an extraordinary wine for the poaching liquid, you can’t cook a good dish with a
bad wine either. A useful principle is to make your poaching liquid with a wine
that you would be happy to drink.”


Jacques's Poached Red Snapper Provençal

Yield: 1 or 2 fillets. serving 2

4 tablespoons finely chopped onion
Approximately 10 ounces red snapper fillets, skin on
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay,
plus more if needed
1/2 cup Tomates Concassées (peeled, seeded,
juiced, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, see below)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

For the sauce
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, soft
2 teaspoons flour
1/4 cup cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)

For garnish
Cucumbers Tournés, optional, (recipe follows)
Chopped parsley

Special equipment: A 10-inch stainless-steel sauté pan with tight-fitting lid;
a gratin dish to hold the fillet; a small wire whisk

Scatter the onion in the bottom of the pan and lay the fillets on top, skin up. Sprinkle the salt and pepper on the fish and pour the wine over them. Scatter the tomato pieces and thyme over the fillets. (If you wish, fit a paper cover into the pan, buttered side down.)
Cover the pan, and bring the liquid to a steady, very gentle boil; poach 3
to 4 minutes for thin fillets, or more for thicker fillets. Pierce the center
of the fillet with a sharp knife to make sure that the flesh is opaque, or
cooked throughout.

Making the sauce
Transfer the fillets with a slotted spoon or spatula to a gratin or baking dish, skin up, and spoon the tomato pieces over them. Place the dish in a warm spot on the stove or in a very low oven, with the paper cover on top if you have one.
Mix the butter and four together in a small bowl to make a smooth paste (beurre manié). Bring the liquid in the poaching pan to the boil, then scoop
up the paste with the tip of the whisk and rapidly stir it into the liquid until completely incorporated. Pour in the cream, whisk to blend, and boil for a minute to thicken. Add any fish juices that have accumulated around the fillets and cook a few moments more, until the sauce is thick enough to
coat a spoon. Correct the seasoning, adding drops of lemon juice if the
sauce seems to lack acidity.

Serving the fillets
When the sauce is ready, arrange six warm Cucumbers Tournés (if you
have prepared them) to form rings on individual serving plates. Place
one fillet, topped with tomato pieces, in the center of the ring, and coat generously with sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

A Paper Cover for Poached Fish

When I use wet cooking methods like poaching, braising, or steaming,
I often cover the food with a piece of parchment paper that fits snugly
in the pan. As with the paper cases, or papillotes, for baking salmon
, this system creates a kind of hothouse, in which the steam hits
the paper and drips back down, maintaining a moist environment. It’s
a good technique for cooking rice, too. With this method you can
quickly make a cover to fit a pan of any size. [Illustrations included
in cookbook]

  • Fold a 1-foot square of parchment paper [or wax paper] into quarters.

  • Fold on the diagonal, to make a triangle. Fold in half 2 or 3 times more
    to make a very narrow triangle.

  • Place the point of the triangle over the exact center of the pan and
    measure its radius; trim the triangle at that length.

  • Open the paper, butter half of the circle, then fold and press the paper together to spread butter on the other half. Fit the open circle into
    the pan.

Cucumbers Tournés

Yield: 12 or more pieces, to garnish 2 or 3 servings

1 large cucumber, about 8 inches long
1/2 tablespoon butter

Remove the rounded ends of the cucumber, then slice it crosswise into 3 equal sections, each about 2 inches long. Cut each of the sections lengthwise into quarters, so you have 12 wedge-shaped pieces.
With a sharp paring knife, “turn” each wedge: first cut away the seeds on one side, then remove the skin in smooth curving peels. Make sure not to remove too much of the flesh; if you do not feel proficient enough with a knife, use a vegetable peeler. Now shape each piece, [illustrated in cookbook] so that it has slightly rounded sides and tapered ends.
In a saucepan just large enough to hold the cucumber pieces in one layer, bring to the boil 1/4 cup of water with 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Add all the cucumbers, cover the pan, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Pour off any water remaining in the pan, add the butter and a large pinch of salt, cover again, and melt the butter over very low heat. Shake  the pan so the cucumbers are very well coated with butter and turn off the heat. Leave them in the covered pan until needed, and briefly reheat before serving
if necessary.

Jacques’s Method for Tomates Concassées

“Diced fresh tomato adds flavor and color to my poached red snapper as well as to many other dishes in this book. It is customary to use only the flesh of the tomato – referred to as tomate concassée – first removing the skin, seeds, and juice. A large ripe tomato, 7 or 8 ounces in weight, will yield a cup or so of diced flesh. I always freeze the skin, juice, and seeds to use for stock.
Use a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife. Slice out the core and start peeling from the cut edges, turning the tomato as you peel.
Cut the peeled tomato in half crosswise, and squeeze out the seeds and juice.
Cut into diced pieces.

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

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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