Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Poisson Rouge

Recently, I was reading an article called The Light of Morning: The Cuisine of Haiti in Saveur.  It was an interesting perspective of Joceyln Zuckerman.  She traveled to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and discussed her experience with Haitian food during her trip.  In particular, the author went to the town of Gros-Morne, in northwestern Haiti.  Zuckerman's discussion of the food and cuisine is fascinating because it provides an insight into how people make the most out of the little that they have.

One of the dishes that Zuckerman had during her stay was Poisson Rouge or "Red Fish."   The name does not come from the use of red fish.  Instead, it comes from the deep red, spicy broth in which the fish is cooked and served.

As Zuckerman described the dish, "[m]y poisson rouge, a whole red snapper from the nearby seaside town of Gonaives, swims in a brick-colored sauce rich with garlic and the heat of Scotch bonnets; it comes with hunger-busting mounds of rice and cornmeal mush and dense cylinders of boiled plantain and cassava."  The recipe provided by Saveur produced that brick-red sauce, but it did not call for rice, cornmeal mush or boiled plantain and cassava.  Instead, it called for boiled beets and carrots. I am not a big fan of either boiled beets or carrots.  I tried to substitute a boiled yam, but that did not work well either. 

This is a great dish.  I will make rice with this dish the next time.  I think that the rice could absorb the "brick-colored sauce" and be just as tasty as the fish.

Adapted from Saveur Magazine
Serves 2-4

2 1-pound red snappers, scaled and cleaned
1 cup of thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallion
1/2 teaspoon of mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme
1 Scotch Bonnet chile, split
1/4 cup canola oil 
6 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
Boiled carrots, beets, or other root vegetables
Sliced tomatoes

1.  Marinate the fish.  Score sides of fish, and place in shallow dish.    Whisk together half the shallots, lime juice, scallions, mustard, thyme, chile, salt and pepper  in a bowl and pour over fish.  Marinate for 30 minutes.

2.  Begin making the cooking liquid.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add tomato paste and cook until it begins to caramelize, about two minutes.  Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.  Cook, stirring, until almost evaporated, about eight to ten minutes.  Remove fish from marinade and set aside.  Add the marinade and sugar to the skillet.  Cook, stirring, until the shallots are soft, about four to five minutes.  

3.  Cook the fish.  Add the fish and 3/4 cup of water and cover skillet.  Cook, turning the fish once, until the fish is cooked through, about eight to twelve minutes.

4.  Plate the dish.  Transfer fish to a large serving platter.  Season cooking liquid with salt and pepper.  Pour through a fine mesh strainer over the fish.  Garnish with remaining shallots.  Serve with carrots, beets, yams or other boiled vegetables.  Also serve with tomato slices.


This dish is best paired with a white wine.  I think a lighter, fruitier wine could work well with this dish, such as a Pinot Grigio.  In this case, I paired a Chenin Blanc from South Africa with the Poisson Rouge.


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