Rice Flaked Red Snapper with Roasted Chile Sauce

This chile pepper gets its name from its origin. In Spanish, serrano is an adjective meaning “from the mountains” which is where it originated-in the mountains of Hildalgo, Mexico. The serrano is normally about twice as hot as Jalapeno (about 10,000 to 15,000 Scoville units). It is the second most popular chile pepper in Mexico. This chile is used mostly for salsas but can also be used in soups, sauces, chili or stews. Try these as a hotter substitute for Jalapeno.

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Roasted chile sauce

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
2 mild to moderately hot fresh green chiles (4″ to 6″ in length) such as jalapenos and serranos
1-1/2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1-1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1-1/2 cups grated fresh coconut or unsweetened desiccated coconut, tightly packed
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. shallot, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp. tamarind paste
1/2 tsp. sugar

Red snapper

1 large egg
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 cup (4 oz. ) rice flakes or crushed unsweetened puffed rice cereal*
6 (6 oz.) pieces red snapper fillets with skin


For the roasted chile sauce:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place the garlic cloves on 6″ by 6″ square of foil and drizzle them with olive oil. Sprinkle the cloves with 1/2 tsp. of salt. Wrap the garlic tightly in the foil and roast in middle of oven until soft, about 30-35 minutes. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, unwrap and separate the cloves. Squeeze the garlic from the skins and place them into a small bowl. Set aside.

On a gas stove, directly over a burner turned to moderately high heat, roast the chiles, turning with tongs, until they become softened and charred on all sides, about 6-8 minutes. (Alternately, roast the chiles in a broiler, turning occasionally, for about 2-1/2 minutes.) Immediately seal the roasted chiles in an airtight container or place them in a bowl. Cover the chiles tightly with some plastic wrap. Let the chiles sit until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes, then uncover. Holding the chiles under cold running water, rub off the charred skins and cut off the tops. Now, gently split the chiles open and discard the seeds if desired. (The seeds will add additional heat to final dish.) Set aside.

In dry, 10″ skillet over moderately low heat, toast the coriander seeds, shaking the skillet often, until the seeds are fragrant and several shades darker, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Toast the cumin seeds in the same manner. (Do not wash skillet.) When the ingredients cool, finely grind both of the spices in an electric coffee/spice grinder and set aside.

In same skillet, over moderately low heat, toast the coconut flakes, stirring occasionally to prevent them from sticking, until they smell fragrant and have turned golden, about 7 minutes. In a blender, combine the coconut, garlic, chiles, and 1/2 cup water. Puree until the mixture issmooth, adding an additional 1/4 cup water if necessary, then set aside.

In a medium saucepan over moderately high heat, heat the canola oil until its shimmering. Add the shallot and ginger and cook, stirring, until the shallots are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the garlic-chile puree (do not clean blender) and ground spices. Pour the stock into a blender and swish the mixture around to collect any residual puree. Pour the mixture into a pan with the other ingredients and add the tamarind paste and sugar. Season with salt and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 12 minutes. Keep warm.

Cook fish and finish dish:

Preheat an oven to 400F.

In small bowl, beat together the egg, flour, 1/8 tsp. of salt, and 1/8 tsp. of pepper to make an egg wash.

Place the rice flakes in a medium bowl.

Working with 1 fillet at a time, generously brush the skinned side of the snapper with the egg wash, then gently dredge the same side in the rice flakes and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Repeat these steps with the remaining snapper fillets.

In large ovenproof skillet, over moderately high heat, heat 2 Tbsp. of oil until it is shimmering. Add 3 snapper fillets, coated sides down and sear, without turning, until the coating is golden brown, about 1-1/2 minutes. Turn the fillets over and place the skillet in the oven. Roast the fillets, uncovered, until they become firm and are just cooked through, about 2-4 minutes. Transfer the fillets to platter and loosely cover with foil to keep warm. Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. of oil in the skillet and cook the remaining fillets in the same manner. Serve with the roasted chile sauce.

Recipe by Floyd Cardoz, Epicurious, August 2006.