Red Snapper with Fiddlehead Ferns and Lemon Verbena

Nicolas Delaroque

Nico - San Francisco

A hit at his recent Beard House dinner, Nicolas Delaroque's elegant red snapper dish is fragrant with lemon verbena, briny oysters, and dry vermouth.


  • 1 whole red snapper (about 4 to 5 pounds), portioned into six 5-ounces fillets, skin-on
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups dry vermouth (such as Noilly Prat)
  • 3 shallots, finely diced 
  • 1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups fish stock (homemade or store bought)
  • 6 oysters (about 1 pound), freshly shucked and oyster liquor reserved
  • 3 sprigs of lemon verbena, divided
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • ½ pound fiddlehead ferns, washed and dried
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt to taste 


Have your fish monger fillet the snapper and portion into 5-ounce pieces. You should have 6 pieces. Reserve the fish bones for stock if making at home.

Prepare the fish: rub the snapper fillets with about 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt per fillet (1 Tablespoon total) and let it sit for 25 minutes in the fridge. Rinse the fillet portions and reserve in the fridge until 15 minutes before you’re ready to roast it. 

Preheat your oven to 300°F (make sure the fan is off).

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: in a saucepan, combine the vermouth, shallots, and vinegar. Bring up to a simmer over medium high heat. Turn the heat to medium and reduce the liquid by half, about 10 minutes. Add the fish stock and the oysters (with their liquor) and reduce by half again, about 8 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and add 2 sprigs of the lemon verbena, letting the herbs infuse the sauce for 5 minutes. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the sauce. Mix in 2 tablespoons of butter and season with salt to your liking. 

Roast the fish: brush the snapper fillets with olive oil and lay the fish, skin-side down, on a rack with parchment paper. Put the leaves of the remaining lemon verbena sprig on top and under the fish. Roast for 6 minutes. Flip the fish and roast for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the fish rest for 3 minutes. Remove the skin—it should peel off easily now—and set aside. 

Prepare the fiddlehead ferns: in a medium-sized saucepan fitted with a lid, cook the fiddleheads with 2 tablespoons butter, salt, and lemon juice for 1 minute. Do not let the butter brown or color the fiddlehead ferns. Season to taste with salt.

To serve, spoon some of your sauce in the bottom of a plate. Place the fish on top and serve with the cooked fiddlehead ferns.


6 servings