When the recipe calls for two good-size portions, as this one does, it's best to buy a large piece of fish and cut your own nice-looking servings. Freeze the scraps for future pastas or soups.
Thai fish sauce and curry pastes (red, green, yellow) are handy pantry staples, as they can be used to bump up the flavor of sauces, stir-fries, soups and more. You'll find a wider variety of them in Asian markets, but at least some brands of each are available in larger grocery stores.
Make Ahead: The sauce can be made a day in advance, covered and refrigerated.
- For the sauce
- 4 ounces medium shell-on shrimp (defrosted, if using frozen)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
- 1 medium clove garlic, crushed
- 1/2 cup store-bought roasted red peppers, cut into thin slices
- 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
- 1 cup V8 100% Vegetable Juice
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- For the fish and zucchini
- 2 small (8 ounces total) zucchini
- 2 5-ounce portions red snapper fillet, skin and bones removed (see headnote)
- Coarse or kosher salt
- Cracked pink peppercorns (may substitute cracked black pepper)
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- Paprika, for garnish
For the sauce: Shell 2 of the shrimp; place the shells and tails in a small bowl. Cut the shrimp in half lengthwise, devein and reserve.
Peel the remaining shrimp, adding the shells to the small bowl. Devein, then coarsely chop the peeled shrimp.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Add the 4 shrimp halves and cook for a few seconds on each side or just until opaque; transfer to a plate to cool.
Add the chopped shrimp, shells and tails to the saucepan; cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the curry paste, garlic, roasted red pepper slices, fish sauce and V8 juice, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes so the flavors meld.
Transfer the mixture (including the shells) to a blender. Start on a low speed; after the steam dissipates, puree for 2 minutes. The consistency will be thick and gritty. Push through a fine-mesh strainer held over the saucepan to catch the puree, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids; there should be 3/4 cup of sauce.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk in the tomato paste to thicken the sauce, then remove from the heat.
Cut the zucchini into very thin strips (julienne), preferably using a Japanese-style slicer. Discard the seeds in the center-cut slices. Place the zucchini in a quart-size resealable plastic food storage bag.
For the fish and zucchini: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Season the fillets lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the top sides with the sugar.
Heat the oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Add the fish, sugar side down, and sear for 1 minute, then turn over and sear for 1 minute on the second side. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. (You can gently cut into the center of a portion to check for the desired degree of doneness.)
When ready to serve, reheat the shrimp sauce over low heat. Add the 4 shrimp halves to warm through. Season the zucchini in the bag lightly with salt and pepper, then seal the bag three-quarters of the way. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes.
Ladle 4 tablespoons of sauce across each individual plate, then pile half of the zucchini at the center of each plate. Top with a portion of the fish, and garnish each with 2 shrimp halves. Sprinkle lightly with paprika; serve warm.
From columnist David Hagedorn, using a sear-and-oven-finish method from chef Michel Richard.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.