On a recent trip to the Yucatan peninsula, I happened upon a superb rendition of a semi-poached fish dish. It’s about as simple as it gets: poaching the fish in its native seawater, but the results are a gorgeously plump, succulent and meltaway fish. Alessandro, Genoan chef and co-owner of Posada Margherita explained the cooking method:
“You cook the fresh snapper in olive oil with whole cloves of garlic, and when the olive oil gets very hot – but not hot enough to burn the garlic -- you put in one glass (wine glass?) of seawater, the juice of one lemon, then toss in fresh chopped tomatoes and and cover until the fish is cooked through.”
I considered filling a plastic water bottle with the Carribean’s finest to recreate the magic, but decided against it (after recalling a sour memory this summer of taking a pre-emptive swig from a bottle full of Rocky Mountain lake water before the purification tablets had run their course, ewww.) Instead, I recreated “seawater” by diluting my Fauchon “Sel de Mer” in boiling water: 3 Tbsp. per 1 cup of water. Another option is plain Sel Gris, which has a high content of sea minerals.
However, you can’t discount using a snapper that’s been freshly snatched from its seawater to achieve the original dish’s level of outrageous deliciousness.
Fish Cooked in Sea Water (As recounted by Alessandro and interpreted by me)
1/3 c. Olive oil
1 lb Fresh Snapper fillet
8 Whole garlic cloves
1 Wine glass of "seawater" (see below)
2-3 Fresh plum tomatoes, seeded & chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Boil water and dissolve 1 Tbsp. of Sel de Mer or Sel Gris in 1 cup of hot water. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Clean the snapper and pat dry. Season lightly with pepper. Add garlic cloves to the oil in pan & swirl around to seaons olive oil cook for 1 minute on medium to high heat. Add the snapper, cook 3-4 minutes while the oil continues to get very hot, but the garlic cloves do not burn. Add the 1 cup of faux seawater, juice of lemon, chopped tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook unti snapper is opaque throughout.