Alice’s Florida Red Snapper

“I actually came up with the risotto recipe first, “ says executive chef David Drake of Alice’s Restaurant in Lake Hopatcong. “I added the sauce and snapper later. I was inspired because my future wife was present when I needed to feed five employees—I really made it for her. I was so in love with her I wanted to impress her with something really wonderful and spontaneous, so I made the risotto.”

“When I cook risotto, I use water for a specific reason. Back in college, I lived amongst vegetarians, so we used water. In addition, the flavor of the chicken stock affects the rice. I prefer neutral rice and let the Parmesan cheese, or whatever I’m adding, give the flavor. I also always put good quality white wine at the end; I want the raw wine quality distinguishable.

“The ketchup addition came from a friend who worked at David Bouley. It’s amazing how it adds a different depth than what was there before.”

zucchini and red pepper risotto, pea shoot salad, sauce bouillabaisse

Serves: 6

Tips:nMake the lobster stock and bouillabaisse ahead of time and freeze.

Any other white flaky seafood can be substituted for red snapper—black bass, grouper, or even scallops.

For the Lobster Stock:

1 Live lobster, approx. 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 pounds
1 tbsp. white vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 garlic head, cut in half
tops from 1 fennel bulb, chopped (reserve head for bouillabaisse)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. fennel seed
1 tsp. whole coriander seed
1 tbsp. whole white pepper
1 large pinch of saffron
1 tsp. curry powder
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
2 cups white wine


For the Lobster:
In a large pot of lightly salted water, add a tablespoon of white vinegar and bring to a boil. Plunge the lobster into the water and simmer for five minutes. Remove it and let it cool for a minute or two. Pull the meat from the claws, arms, and tail. Set aside.

Break the lobster body into small pieces. Open the body and remove the gray, feathery gills. Remove the sand sac from between the eyes. Crush the shells so they fit in a large stewpot.

For the Lobster Stock:
Heat a stewpot. Add oil and cook the crushed lobster shells for five minutes. Add roughly cut up celery, onion, carrot, garlic, and fennel tops. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add the tomato paste, the spices and de-glaze with the wine. Add enough water just to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes and strain.

For the Arborio Rice:

~1/2 gallon water
1 onion, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
8 oz. Arborio rice
salt and pepper, to taste
3 oz. (good quality) white wine

Bring a pot of water (approx. half a gallon) to a low simmer. In a medium-sized saucepot, sweat the minced onion in the olive oil until translucent. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon, mixing together with onion, toasting ever so slightly for about 4 minutes.

Gradually add the hot water in batches, about 6 ounces at a time, stirring until the water cooks down each time, adding more water before the previous water totally evaporates. Add salt and pepper to the cooking liquid. (Taste the liquid to ensure that there is sufficient salt.) Cook the rice for about twenty minutes until the rice is about 80% cooked (it will still have a little bite to it). Remove from heat. Add the wine and stir in. Immediately, stop the cooking by lying out on a flat pan, spreading the rice in an even layer, covered by parchment paper. (At the restaurant, we often put the pan on a windowsill to cool the rice down quickly.)

For the Snapper:

3 large fillets of Florida red snapper
salt and pepper, to taste
Wondra flour
2 oz. olive oil

Cut each fillet in half. Season each with salt and pepper on both sides. Lightly coat the skin side with the Wondra flour. In a very hot sauté pan, add the oil and sear the fish, skin side down. The fish will curl up so you will need to push it down with a spatula for about ten seconds. Turn down the heat slightly and allow the skin to get crispy without burning. Briefly flip the fish over to finish cooking. Remove fillets from the pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate and keep in a warm place.

For the Bouillabaisse Sauce:

2 red peppers
1 head of fennel
1 garlic head
1 large onion
4 oz. olive oil
1 cup white wine
Lobster Stock (reserve 4 oz for later)
1 orange
1 tbsp. coriander
1 tbsp. whole fennel seed
1 tbsp. whole white pepper
1 pinch of saffron
1 tsp. paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 stick of unsalted butter
5 tbsp. ketchup
zest and juice of 3 limes

Clean the peppers of their seeds, white inside ribs, and tops. Wash them well and cut into approximately one-inch pieces. Do the same with fennel bulb. Peel the garlic. Cut the onion into medium dice. In a large stewpot sweat the onions in the oil until they become translucent. Add the red pepper, fennel, and garlic.

Continue to cook slowly so that the vegetables begin to caramelize. De-glaze the vegetables with the white wine. Add the lobster stock to the pot. Over an open flame, burn the orange on all sides and add to the pot with all the spices. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes. Strain.

Brown a quarter stick of butter. While the butter is very hot, quickly add the ketchup and stir to make a tomato caramel. Add the caramel to the broth and continue to simmer. Add the lime zest and juice. Keep hot.

For the vegetables:

1 beefsteak tomato
1 green zucchini
1 red bell pepper

Plunge the tomato into a pot of boiling water for around 30 seconds and then shock and shock in ice water. Peel, quarter, and core the tomato, and cut into medium dice. Wash the zucchini; quarter it lengthwise and trim out most of the white insides. Likewise, quarter a washed red bell pepper and clean out the white ribs and top. Cut into medium dice.

2 tbsp. olive oil
prepared risotto (see Arborio rice, above)
4 oz. reserved lobster stock
1 pinch of saffron
1 pinch of curry
salt and white pepper, to taste
reserved lobster meat pieces
6 tbsp. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 oz. pea shoots
fresh sea salt

Heat a braising pot. Add oil, and sauté the prepared vegetable for about two minutes. Add the risotto and 4 oz. of reserved lobster stock. Heat through. Add a good pinch of saffron, curry, and salt + pepper. Fold in the reserved lobster pieces, the Parmesan cheese and lemon juice. In the center of each plate arrange a little pea shoots. Top with the risotto. Place the fish on top.

Pour the reserved sauce around the risotto. Garnish with some more pea shoots, a small squeeze of lemon and some fresh sea salt.

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