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Chili Crab Stuffed Snapper w/ Hazelnut Crust

It was a gorgeous Sunday spent outside enjoying the sun. The park was nicely crowded with people, dogs, music, ball games, and in the center of it all was our blanket. Spirits were high and we didn’t want our lovely day to end. As the sun went down, we strolled into the local shop to gather ingredients and inspiration for the continuation of our Sunday. The consensus was that we wanted something light, refreshing, healthy and delicious. Browsing the seafood section, inspiration was slowly building. At this point, I had decided on doing a crab stuffed fish filet. So, I bought some good looking snapper, and a handful of Dungeness crab meat. It was a good start. I had some lemon and orange at home, but I needed a bit more flavor and excitement to elevate this fish a bit. I found some fresno and serrano chilies, these would be great to play with for this dish. I rounded up my shopping trip with some green onions, some beautiful escarole, and of course some wine.

Back in the kitchen, my mind was filling with ideas. I first started with the stuffing. The beautifully sweet crab meat was going to be made into a light salad to be stuffed inside the snapper. First I added some small diced fresno and serrano chilies. Then I added a bit of orange and lemon zest, a touch of agave nectar and a squeeze from the lemon. A quick taste, and it needed one more thing. So, I chopped up some green onions. Perfect. The stuffing would have been stellar on its own. Moving onto the snapper, I had some ground hazelnuts that were burning a hole in my pantry. And then it all came together. A hazelnut crust, simple egg wash, and a light vinaigrette for a sauce. With my mouth watering, I began assembling the fish. First stuffed, then rolled, then set aside for its egg wash and hazelnut crust. The vinaigrette came together very nicely. Starting with the remainder of juice from the lemon and orange, along with a touch of zest, I added in some chopped chilies, and onions. I then added a touch of agave for added sweetness, and finally fished it with some hazelnut oil. It tasted outstanding. The sweetness of the citrus, combined with the heat from the chilies, and the nuttiness of the oil was deliciously inviting to eat more. It would be a perfect balance to the fish and crab.

The fish was cooked in a cast iron pan in a shallow fry method. Cooked for a few minutes on both sides until the hazelnuts were a dark golden brown. Sliced and then served on some escarole, the fish was finished with the chili-hazelnut vinaigrette. The fish was outstanding. The bite and heat of the sauce elevated the dish to a whole new level. And the complementary crunch that the hazelnuts provided were incredible. I can’t wait to make this dish again!