When talking recipes, Bryan Sutton says the fairy-dust factor is that you’ve got to have a good time cooking. The chef-partner of Naples’ smash hit Southern brunch café The Rooster was raised in Texas and Tennessee, and it was there he learned the art—and entertainment value—of trying your luck in the kitchen by his grandmother’s side. But should you prefer to take his word for it and stay away from the stove yourself, know that you can still enjoy this favorite dish of his as an occasional special at The Rooster’s twice-weekly dinners.
2 links andouille sausage, cooked
¾ cup chopped pecans
8 ounces panko
Zest of 1 lemon, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (8-ounce) pieces fresh red snapper
1 egg, beaten
2 cups stone-ground grits
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (16-ounce) box baby spinach, stems picked off
1 quart heavy cream, divided
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small tomato, chopped
2 medium shallots, chopped
6 sprigs thyme
Corn starch and canola oil, for pan-frying
1. Using a mini food processor, grind sausage, then sauté or roast until dry and crumbly. Separately grind pecans.
2. Mix andouille, panko and pecans, tossing in a bit of lemon zest, salt and pepper. Dredge fish in egg wash, then coat each side of fish with dry mixture and set aside in fridge.
3. Meanwhile, cook grits according to package directions, using chicken or vegetable stock in lieu of water. Spread cooked grits on a small sheet pan and refrigerate.
4. Warm a sauté pan to medium. Add butter and garlic and sauté until clear, about 2 minutes. Add spinach and cook until slightly wilted, then add half of the cream and Parmesan. Season with about ½ teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper and reduce until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.
5. In a separate pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and sauté tomato and shallots with two thyme sprigs; reduce until savory, then add rest of cream, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Reduce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove thyme stems.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté snapper with remaining oil in an oven-safe pan over medium-high—turn over only once, when the first side becomes golden brown. Once you flip, put pan in oven and cook until done, about 10 minutes.
7. Cut grits into large triangles; dust with cornstarch. Coat the bottom of a pan with canola oil and place over medium heat; flash-fry 2 minutes per side until crispy. Remove and place on paper towels.
8. Put warm creamy spinach on plate; stack two triangles on bias, and lay a piece of fish on top. Drizzle with warm tomato-cream sauce. Garnish with remaining lemon zest and thyme sprigs.