Sunday, 3 April 2011

Recipe #5: Fried lemon butter snapper on pasta with Viognier sauce


OK it is only my fifth recipe and I am still experimenting with what's in my fridge. There isn't much: fresh salmon and chicken breast fillets. Then a friend brought me some fresh Australasian snapper. Surprisingly, they cost as much as salmon: over AUD$10 for less than 300 gms.

Before I cook, I often try to visualize what ingredients I have and how I am going to put them together in a meal. This process could take a day or two. I normally go through phases: fish/pasta/white meats, etc., so expect to see a few more variations of this theme.

I start with something quite commonplace, mundane even. (This might not seem so to other people living elsewhere.) Like Australasian snapper. A favourite for fish and chips here. Easy to prepare and easy to cook: deep-friend in batter, grilled or just pan-fried.

I thought: OK I will fry the snapper in butter with a special sauce over plain boiled pasta. Then the ideas came flooding in and this is the result:

Ingredients
  • Australasian snapper fillets
  • Creamy butter
  • Lemon (half will do)
  • Fresh cream
  • French Viognier (best is from Condrieu; however it is very expensive)
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • White onions
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Pasta
  • Parsley

Pasta
Boil pasta in water, add olive oil and salt, then allow to simmer until pasta is cooked. Drain excess water.

Viognier sauce
Well, this is really a butter based creamy sauce of which Viognier is an ingredient.
Toss chopped onions and garlic into fry-pan, add butter and allow to simmer until onions and garlic begin to brown slightly. Then place mushrooms evenly over the pan, allowing them to brown nicely.
Move onions, garlic and mushrooms to edge of pan, leaving enough space to place fillets of snapper, evenly, without overcrowding, while keeping heat at simmering temperature. Cooking fish in butter can be tricky because if the heat is too high, the fish will stick to the pan and possibly get burned over overcooked. Tilt pan from side to side to allow fish to be immersed in butter, moving the fillets gently to ensure they don't stick to the pan. Don't worry if the fish doesn't brown. If cooked slowly, the surface with turn slightly golden. Carefully turn them over to cook other side.
As the butter sauce turns brown, squeeze half a lemon and continue simmering.
Then add a splash of Viognier, simmer for a few minutes, while adding more wine, in small measures. This prevents the sauce from drying up.

To Serve
When fish is cooked (and slightly golden brown), remove them from the pan.
Place them over bed of pasta.
Continue to simmer Viognier sauce, then add a little cream for texture and gently stir into mixture of mushrooms, onions and garlic. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
By now, the mushroom would be deep golden brown and the sauce rich, buttery and deliciously aromatic.
Pour sauce over fried fish and pasta, allowing it to soak down.
Sprinkle chopped parsley generously before serving.

Complement meal with a fresh French Viognier (preferably Condrieu).

A note on Viogniers: recently it has become an increasingly popular grape variety especially amongst boutique wineries in the New World. Australia has produced some outstanding examples, including some innovative Shiraz-Viognier blends. These blends, although potentially good when well-made, isn't on my list of great wines, to be honest. Viognier is like the white version of Pinot Noir: difficult to deal with; however, potentially turning out the best wines in the world. The reason why I prefer French Viognier is because the best producers bring out the subtle complexities of this grape, while balancing terroir with tradition. Condrieu is the apotheosis of this example of wine-making. Many New World styles, on the other hand, tend to be too blatantly fruit-driven or over-worked for my liking. Of course, there're many exceptions to this; however, I generally prefer to stick to the French style.

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