|Chef Eric Ripert|
Chef Eric Ripert is what the British would refer to as ‘a bit of alright’. Tall, and prematurely gray with a French accent that brings up memories of Maurice Chevalier, he’s a very sexy guy. Beyond that, he is an incredible talent in the kitchen. And I’ll take it one step further: I have seen Chef Ripert up close and paternal. A family man, he has a house near us at the beach and goes to some of the same restaurants we do where he never fails to complement the chefs. And Chef Ripert knows his way around a kitchen. His Le Bernardin restaurant
(155 West 51st Street . New York City . 212-554-1515) has consistently ranked
in the top ten for years. Chef Bernardin is a frequent contributor on NBC’s Today Show which is where I first saw his Red Snapper with Sofrito.
|Playa La Ropa, Mexico|
Red Snapper is a wonderful fish. It’s flaky and mild and the perfect object for inserting whatever flavor the cook wants to use. I’ll never forget a long ago visit to Zihuatanejo on Mexico’s west coast. Still a little fishing village at the time, our daily routine was to spend most of our waking hours on the beach. A young boy from a very simple seafood shack would offer us beers and invite us to lunch. Virtually every day, we’d go to there for lunch. And virtually every lunch, we’d eat the most incredibly delicious “Huachinango”. All that had been done to the fish was to score its flesh and insert garlic into it and then fry it in peanut oil. It was heaven.
But back to the Today Show and M. Ripert. The cooking segments there are amazingly fast paced and there’s never time for any elaborate cooking. But even then, this one seemed amazingly easy. Sofrito, Ripert explained, was found all over the Carribbean especially those islands with Spanish roots. From the Dominican Republic to Cuba, Sofrito varies generally based on what peppers are available. This one relies on Red Peppers and Jalapenos. All you really had to do was to soften vegetables in canola oil, put them into the Cuisinart with a considerable amount of butter and then process. What came out was a lovely looking red, yellow and green mixture. Slathered over the fish which then went into a hot oven, it was ready in minutes. While it cooks, the remainder of the ‘Sofrito’ is combined with chicken stock and finally lime juice to create this lovely mix of the not-at-all-spicy sauce with the bite of the lime juice and the richness of the butter. The final reason for making the Sofrito is that with whatever you have left over, you can make “Sancocho”, a Puerto Rican beef stew. I’ll save that for later. One caveat here. I used a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish just as I had seen on the Today Show. My 400 degree oven led to its cracking into several pieces during the cooking process. I was able to salvage my fish. But do yourself a favor and go with an non-Pyrex Baking dish. Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for Red Snapper with Sofrito, courtesy of Eric Ripert.
For the sofrito butter, sweat red bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic and onion together in the canola oil until soft.
Place the soft peppers in a food processor or blender and puree with the softened butter and cilantro. Remove from the blender and reserve.
Thoroughly season the snapper fillets on both sides with salt and pepper and place them in the baking dish; brush the top of the fillets with the sofrito butter and add enough water to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Put the baking dish in the oven and cook the fish about 8 to 10 minutes.
While the fish is cooking, bring the chicken stock to a boil and whisk in the remaining sofrito butter. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Finish the sauce with the lime juice at the last minute and pour the sauce around each plate. Serve immediately.