Pan-Seared Grouper in Tomato Broth with Crisp Garlic, and Shrimp and Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This dish is pure Texas terroir featuring delicious Gulf Coast grouper, an often under-utilized fish, in a broth of Texas tomatoes flavored with Texas Sangiovese.

It makes a dramatic center-stage entrée in our Texas feast! In the spirit of the traditional baccalà (salted cod in a sauce of tomato, basil and garlic) found on most Feast of the Seven Fishes tables, this dish offers a full-flavored fish in an opulent tomato sauce with a garlic-shrimp topping and the bitter edge of Brussels sprouts, and boldly says “I deserve a substantial red wine, please!” Enter Red Caboose Winery’s Range Rider made in Meridian. This Tempranillo blend magically combines a medium body, smokiness and a minerally character with Syrah’s luscious dark fruitiness and herbal notes from Cabernet Franc that marry attractively with the richness of the sauce and bitterness of the sprouts. If you prefer a less assertive, softer-tannin wine, choices include Duchman Family Winery Montepulciano with its dark cherry and orange peel notes or the blueberry-and-floral-laced Homestead Winery Malbec.

For the tomato broth:

16 ripe, homegrown tomatoes (preferably San Marzano or Roma), sliced in half lengthwise
¼ cup Texas extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Raw sugar
Kosher salt
9 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
⅓ cup minced fresh basil
2 teaspoons minced winter savory
6 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup Texas Sangiovese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup whipping cream
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the crisp garlic and shrimp topping:

1 cup Texas extra-virgin olive oil
10 large cloves garlic, peeled & sliced very thinly lengthwise
24 medium-size shrimp, peeled deveined & seasoned liberally with salt and black pepper
1 cup breadcrumbs made from toasted ciabatta bread
2 teaspoons minced lemon zest
2 teaspoons minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the Brussels sprouts:

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
1 medium yellow onion, cut into
½-inch dice
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Texas extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the grouper:

1 cup Texas extra-virgin olive oil
6 pieces grouper fillet, 4–5 ounces each, skinned
All-purpose flour seasoned with kosher salt, black pepper and cayenne

For the tomato broth: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the tomatoes, cut-side up. Lightly drizzle them with a bit of olive oil, then very lightly scatter on the raw sugar and kosher salt. Roast the tomatoes in the preheated oven until the edges begin to caramelize—about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. In a blender, combine the garlic, onion, basil, savory and a little of the chicken broth and puree until very smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. When the roasted tomatoes have cooled, chop them into ½-inch dice and set aside. Heat the ¼ cup of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce has darkened to almost a mahogany color—about 2 minutes. (Do not allow it to burn.) Add the pureed mixture to the tomato paste and stir to blend. Sauté, stirring often, until the puree is thickened, then stir in the remaining chicken broth, the wine and the chopped tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened and reduced—about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the cream and Parmesan cheese and blend well. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve.

For the topping: Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the sliced garlic all at once. Immediately turn the heat to medium-low and cook the garlic until it’s light golden brown and crisp—about 10 to 15 minutes—while stirring constantly.

Using a flat wire skimmer or slotted spoon, remove the garlic from the pan and drain on a paper towel-lined wire rack. Pour out half of the oil from the pan (the oil can be saved to make croutons or something else that requires a garlic-infused oil). Return the pan to medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the seasoned shrimp and sauté, tossing often, until they are lightly browned at the edges—about 5 minutes. Stir in the breadcrumbs and cook for about 1 minute, or until the crumbs are golden brown. Strain the mixture through a very fine strainer to remove the oil, then transfer to a medium bowl. Add the garlic slices, lemon zest, basil, parsley and Parmesan cheese. Stir to blend well, coating the shrimp. Set aside to keep warm.

For the Brussels sprouts: As one might surmise, Brussels sprouts are believed to have originated in Belgium, where they have long been regarded as the country’s official vegetable. During the Roman Empire, chefs imported the nutritious green rosettes to create delicacies for the emperor’s tables. Many people claim to dislike Brussels sprouts because of a strong, pungent taste. As the sprouts age on the plant, and in the grocery store’s vegetable bins, the taste becomes quite strong and does not pair well with seasonings. The best place to buy Brussels sprouts is at the farmers market, where you know they will be only hours out of the soil and picked by farmers who know exactly when the buds are at their prime. Look for the smallest, bright-green buds, selecting those with very tight heads and no loose leaves, and pass over those heads that are beginning to open up or with yellowing leaves.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside. Trim off the stems of the sprouts right at the base, but take care not to cut into the sprout or it will fall apart when cooked. Cut each sprout in half lengthwise. Combine the sprouts with the onion, garlic and olive oil in a bowl. Toss to blend well, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn out the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the sprouts are crisp-tender.

For the fish: A word of caution about cooking grouper: while most fish begins to flake apart when overcooked, grouper becomes very tough, much like the sole of a tennis shoe, so be very careful not to overcook. To sear the grouper, heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Dredge the fish pieces in the seasoned flour to coat well and shake off the excess flour. When the oil is hot, lower the fish pieces, skinned-side down, into the skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes, or just until lightly browned on the bottom. Turn the fish and cook for about 3 minutes on the other side until browned and opaque throughout. Remove from the heat.

To serve, ladle a portion of the tomato broth into six individual soup plates. Place a piece of the grouper in the center of each plate. Top each serving with 6 shrimp and a portion of the garlicky crumb mixture. Place the cooked sprouts into a serving bowl and serve the fish and sprouts at once.



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TERRY THOMPSON-ANDERSON is a professional chef, cookbook author, culinary instructor and restaurant consultant. She has written five cookbooks and numerous articles for various publications. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, The Southern Foodways Alliance and Les Dames d’Escoffier, International.