Frank Stitt, a well-known Southern chef, served us this dish when we visited his restaurant, Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama.
For the Sauce
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
- 1 stalk celery, sliced
- 1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, 3 thyme sprigs, 5 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, and 1 leek top, tied together)
- 2 cups red wine
- 1⁄4 cup ruby port
- 2 smoked ham hocks
- 4 cups chicken broth or canned low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
For the Red Snapper
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 6 (6–8-oz.) skin-on red snapper filets
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
For the sauce: Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook until slightly caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add bouquet garni and then deglaze the pot with red wine and port, stirring up any browned bits. Boil until wine is reduced by three-quarters. Add ham hocks and chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer very gently for 2 1⁄2 hours until meat is quite tender; skim carefully as stock simmers to remove any fat that rises to the surface.
Remove ham hocks with tongs or a slotted spoon. Strain stock, return it to the pot, and boil over medium-high heat until reduced to 1 cup. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, when it is cool enough to handle, remove ham from the bone and tear into small pieces, discarding fat, skin, and gristle; set aside. (The sauce can be made to this point up to 1 day ahead. Refrigerate the sauce and ham separately.)
For the red snapper: In a large heavy sauté pan, heat oil and butter over high heat until almost smoking. Season fish with salt and white pepper and add to pan, skin side down. Lower heat to medium and cook until edges of fish just begin to turn opaque, about 4 minutes. Turn and continue cooking until just opaque throughout, about 4 minutes more. Transfer filets to a rack set over a platter, and cover to keep warm.
To finish the sauce, bring reduced broth to a simmer and swirl in butter, bit by bit. Add ham, and season sauce with salt and pepper and vinegar or lemon juice.
Place snapper filets on dinner plates and spoon sauce (and ham hocks) over and about.