Simple Texas cookware meets sophisticated seafood dish
No self-respecting Texas cook would be without a cast-iron skillet — for many they’re family heirlooms. Cast-iron cookware, after all, is durable and versatile, moving easily from stovetop to oven. Once seasoned, cast-iron skillets are naturally nonstick.
This Skillet Snapper recipe marries modern cuisine and traditional cookware.
6 vermilion snapper fillets (about 6 ounces each), skin-on and scales removed
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Baby spinach, wilted
1⁄4 unsalted butter
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1⁄4 cup shallots, sliced
1 cup leeks, sliced (white part only)
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1⁄4 cups milk
2 tablespoons white wine
1⁄2 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped
1 cup Gruyere, shredded
1⁄2 cup cold, unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons shallot, minced
1⁄2 jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
1⁄2 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
1⁄4 cup white wine
For the Mornay Sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, shallots, leeks, salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the flour to the pan, stirring to combine. Cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Gently whisk in the milk and bring mixture to a simmer. Simmer on the stovetop for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the wine, herbs and cheese until thoroughly combined.
For the Crabmeat Sauce: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add crabmeat, tarragon and wine. Increase heat and bring to a simmer. Allow mixture to reduce slightly. Remove from heat and add remaining butter, carefully incorporating with a wooden spoon. Gently emulsify the mixture so as not to break up the lumps of crabmeat.
For the snapper: Preheat oven to 450 F. With a sharp knife, scrape the skin of the snapper to remove any excess water. Score the skin by just cutting through it. Season fillets with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Place fillets skin side down in the pan to sear. Cook for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and cook 2 additional minutes. Do not flip over fillets.
Place skillet in oven and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove pan from the oven; transfer fillets to a platter with skin-side up and allow to rest for 2 minutes.
Plate the snapper fillets crispy skin-side up. Delicately spoon crabmeat and Mornay sauces over the fish; do not smother the fish with sauce. Serve with wilted spinach.
Cast-iron care commandments
Caring for cast iron is simple and easy. Follow this advice to avoid stripping the pan’s seasoning or inviting rust. Too late? Never fear, most damage is reversible by a thorough cleaning and re-seasoning.
Thou Shall … Clean the skillet immediately after use, while it’s still hot or warm.
Thou Shall … Wash the skillet by hand, using hot water and a stiff-bristled brush.
Thou Shall … Remove stubborn stuck-on food with a paste of coarse kosher salt and water, a plastic scraper or by briefly boiling water in the pan.
Thou Shall … Thoroughly towel dry the skillet after every cleaning.
Thou Shall … Apply a light coat of vegetable oil to the inside of the skillet using a cloth or paper towel once the pan is dry.
Thou Shall … Store the skillet in a dry place.
A few Thou Shall Nots for good measure:
Thou Shall Not … Use soap or abrasive cleaners.
Thou Shall Not … Soak the pan, leave it in the sink or put it in the dishwasher. Ever.
Thou Shall Not … Toss out the cast-iron skillet because of neglect or improper care. You can easily restore a cast-iron skillet.
Re-seasoning your cast-iron skillet in 10 easy steps
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. If you spot rust, scrub the skillet with steel wool.
3. Wash the cookware with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush.
4. Rinse and dry completely.
5. Rub a very thin, even coating of cooking oil of your choice onto the skillet, inside and out. Too much oil will result in a sticky finish.
6. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven (not on bottom of the oven) to catch drips.
7. Place skillet upside down on the top rack of the oven.
8. Bake the skillet for 1 hour. After an hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool completely in the oven.
9. Store the cookware uncovered, in a dry place when cooled.
10. Repeat as necessary.