Some recipes are complicated. This one is not. That said, there are many moving parts here. The tomato sambal and the maque choux can be made in advance. Make this smart move to avoid a kitchen jam-up as you are trying to plate this beautiful, seasonal dish with brilliant colors and unexpected flavor.

  1. The tomato sambal can be made up to a week in advance. Actually, you should not only do this but make extra. It is good on anything—plain rice, crusty bread, grilled poultry or meat, any type of seafood.
  2. Thai red chilis, tamarind paste, fish sauce, and pea shoots are available in Asian markets, such as the Hong Kong Market (925 Behrman Hwy #3, Terrytown, 504. 394.0775)
  3. Pour the brandy into a small cup then add it to the hot pan. Never pour alcohol into a hot pan directly from the bottle. It the pan is hot enough the liquor will ignite and chase the stream of alcohol back into the bottle, resulting in a Molotov cocktail. I know this from experience. 
  4. Cultured butter a pronounced butter flavor. It’s creamier than traditional butter with just a slight tang from the cultures—the same way you can detect a bit of tanginess in buttermilk or yogurt. Vermont Creamery brand is available in most grocery stores. Trader Joe’s also has a house brand of cultured butter. 

Seared Gulf Fish with Corn Maque Choux, Crawfish Tails, Sauteed Pea Shoots, & Tomato Sambal 

Shared by Amy Mehrtens, Executive Chef, Copper Vine, New Orleans

Serves 4

Tomato sambal (can be made up to one week in advance):

4 tablespoons fruity olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 Thai red chilies (remove the seeds if less heat is desired)
1 shallot, minced
2 cups of red and yellow cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
1 tablespoon tamarind puree
1 1/2 teaspoon Steen’s cane syrup
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon fish sauce

  1. Heat oil in a wide-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add the garlic, ginger, chilies, and shallot to the pan leave undisturbed until they become aromatic, about 15-20 seconds.
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down, about 6 minutes. 
  4. Add the tomato paste and stir in until combined. Cook until the mixture becomes a brick red color, about three minutes. 
  5. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about one minute. 
  6. Add the tamarind paste, cane syrup, lemon juice and zest, and the fish sauce. 
  7. Cook until the mixture has the consistency of a tight sauce, about two minutes. 
  8. Remove from heat. Serve at room temperature or store, refrigerated, for up to three days for later use.

Maque choux: 

3 tablespoons salted butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 cups raw corn kernels scraped from 4-6 ears of fresh corn
1 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon Steen’s cane syrup
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon chopped parsley

  1. Heat the butter over medium-high heat in a wide-bottomed pan. 
  2. Add the onion and bell pepper and sweat down until the onions are translucent. Add the corn.  
  3. Deglaze the pan with the brandy (see blue notes). The brandy will ignite so take caution. 
  4. Add the chicken stock, the cream, and the parsley and simmer until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently.  
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Keep warm. Conversely, this could be made a day in advance and gently reheated.

Pea shoot:

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
8 ounces pea shoots (pull any hard or woody pieces off the pea shoots, leaving only tender stems and shoots) – may substitute baby kale or baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 dashes Steen’s cane vinegar

  1. Heat oil in a wide bottomed pan on medium high heat.
  2. Add the garlic, ginger, and shallot to the pan. Leave undisturbed until they become aromatic, about 15 to 20 seconds.
  3. Add the pea shoots and stir until thoroughly combined.
  4. Season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Add the cane vinegar. 
  6. Pull the pea shoots from the heat as soon as they start to wilt. Reserve, warm, until ready to plate. 

Crawfish tails:

1 cup Louisiana crawfish tails
4 tablespoons cultured butter (see blue notes)
1/4 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Add all ingredients to a saucepot over medium-low heat. Ideally, use a thermometer and cook until the mixture reaches a temperature of 165ºF degrees. Take extreme care not to boil the mixture or the crawfish will be tough. Set aside and keep warm.

Seared fish:

4 6-ounce filets of flaky Gulf fish, such as redfish or black drum
Creole seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s
4 tablespoons fruity olive oil
4 tablespoons cultured butter (see blue notes)

  1. Dry the fish thoroughly with paper towels and season lightly on all side with Creole seasoning.
  2. Heat the olive oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium high heat.
  3. Add the fish fillets to the pan and cook, undisturbed, until the sides of the fillets begin to turn opaque, three to four minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. 
  4. Using a spatula, gently lift and flip each fillet.
  5. Immediately add the cultured butter. 
  6. Continue cooking the fish until it flakes easily with a fork, about one to four minutes more, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Remove from heat and plate at once.

To plate:  

  1. Divide the maque choux evenly at the centers of four warm plates.
  2. Divide the pea shoots in bundles atop the maque choux. 
  3. Divide the seared fish atop the greens.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, divide the crawfish tails atop the fish.
  5. Top each piece of fish with a dollop of the sambal.