Silver Snapper “A Scapece”

T his rather simple preparation dates back to the Roman times and was used as a method of preservation. Throughout Europe you will find dishes using this method: In Castilian, it means “pickled,” probably because of the use of vinegar, although it is a technique that requires the marriage of frying and pickling. It is called escabeche in Spain, in saor in Venice and a scapece in Southern Italy.

We love using this method for it’s simplicity and the flavor, as well as the texture it gives to the fish. Here we use local Rhode Island silver snapper a.k.a. scup or porgy, but it also works very well with skate and sardines, which can be kept in oil for a pickled picnic food the following day.

Ingredients – Serves 4:
4 Silver Snapper Fillets (6-8 oz each)
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Small Onion
1 Tbsp Cracked Black Pepper
1 Bay Leaf
¼ cup each of Balsamic, Champagne, and Red Wine Vinegar
(¾ cup total) Seasoned Flour (salt)

Slice the onions and peppers into 1/3” strips. Heat two 10” sauté pans with a little extra virgin olive oil and sweat the onions and peppers separately. Sweat the peppers for 3 min and the onions for 5 min. Combine the two in one pan and add the vinegar, black pepper and bay leaf. Cook for two minutes and pour out into a bowl and cool. The vegetables should still be a little toothsome.

Heat two 12” frypans on medium high heat. Dredge the snapper fillets in the seasoned flour, add a ¼ inch of extra virgin oil to each pan and panfry the fillets skin side down for two minutes then flip over and cook for 1 minute. At this point divide the pepper/onion/vinegar mixture to the pans and cook for 1 minute – this finishes cooking the fish and makes the sauce.

Transfer the fish to a serving plate and reduce the sauce or add a touch of water to arrive at the desired consistency, which should be loose and not too thick. Ideally you should have about a tablespoon of jus per serving, as the fish and vegetables will absorb the vinegar, giving the dish great flavor and the fish its firm texture. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with roasted potatoes or creamy polenta in the Neapolitan style.