Cooking With Local Chefs

Cooking with Chef Rich Knowles | Seasonal dish from the Gulf

Chef Rich Knowles of enRich Bistro
Chef Rich Knowles of enRich Bistro

Fall is upon us, and the changes that occur during this season are always exciting. Up north it means cooler temperatures, the leaves showcasing their vibrant colors and even the first snow sightings. Down here on the beautiful Gulf Coast it means stone crabs. Pumpkin soup can wait -- I'll take sunshine and stonies!

Yes, it's time to take advantage of the stone crab season which just began a few weeks ago. Worldwide, the stone crab is one of a very select species of crab that is harvested solely for its claws. After capture, the claw of the stone crab is removed and the crab is released back into the water where it will easily regrow its claw (or claws) over the course of the next year. This makes for a truly unique, sustainable and reusable product from our Gulf of Mexico.

It's also a comfort knowing that such a renewable and local food source tastes so absurdly good. Another Gulf Coast favorite is grouper -- the signature fish of the Gulf. Naturally, I figured both Gulf treasures should be in the same dish.

This recipe for shallot encrusted grouper with stone crab fried rice and a spicy ponzu sauce is a recent concoction of mine and is a great way to fuse these two wonderful ingredients.

It is a somewhat complex recipe so be sure to follow the steps carefully. For those who would like it prepared for them, I will feature this at enRich as a special frequently through the holidays.

Keep an eye on our website, enrichbistro.com, and our Facebook page for when the dish will be available. Bon appetit.

Shallot Encrusted Grouper with Stone Crab Fried Rice and Spicy Ponzu

1 pound fresh grouper (two 8-ounce pieces)

2 tablespoons seasoned flour (I use paprika, salt, pepper)

2 medium shallots (sliced thin)

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces stone crab meat, boiled (You can leave meat in a few claws for a neat presentation)

2 stalks green onion, fine chopped

1 cup jasmine rice

1 egg, scrambled

for the Spicy Ponzu:

4 tablespoons mirin

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons orange juice

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon cornstarch and water slurry (roughly equal parts of cornstarch and cold water, whisked)

2 teaspoons sriracha

First, make the spicy ponzu sauce. In a small sauce pot, add the mirin, soy sauce, orange juice, lemon juice and bring to a boil. Then add the cornstarch slurry -- whisk in slowly until it slightly thickens (should lightly coat the back of a spoon). Lastly, whisk in sriracha and remove from heat.

Next step is to boil the jasmine rice in water until cooked through (or slightly dente) and remove from heat. While rice is cooking, scramble one egg and put to the side. Then, heat up a skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil (save the other tablespoon of oil for the fried rice). While the skillet is heating, season the grouper filets with salt and pepper and place the thinly sliced shallots on top of the filets. Add the seasoned flour evenly atop the shallots and lightly press down. Then, carefully place the filets shallot-side down in the hot skillet and cook until a golden crust is acquired. Finish in the oven, shallot-side up, in a 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until its cooked through (still moist in the middle but not translucent).

Prepare the fried rice while the fish is baking. Heat up a skillet with the other tablespoon of olive oil, then add the slightly dente rice. Stir the rice around for a few minutes and add the spicy ponzu sauce. Keep the heat high and stir for a minute or two until it starts bubbling, then add the scrambled egg, chopped green onion and stone crab meat. After another 30 seconds, kill the heat (try not to over stir to avoid breaking up the crab meat). Place the fried rice on two plates with the finished grouper on top. Place a few of the crab claws around the outside of the rice and drizzle any extra sauce around the plate. Garnish with cilantro sprigs or green onion. Serves two. Enjoy it while it's hot.

Rich Knowles, chef/owner of enRich Bistro, can be reached at 941-792-0990 or rich.enrichbistro.com. The restaurant is at 5629 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

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