Crazy water, which translates to aqua pazza in Italian, is a famous way to cook fish that was inspired by fishermen from the Italian coast of Naples. These men cooked fish whole with simple ingredients like sea water, garlic, tomato and parsley. This mix of common ingredients created a flavorful sauce that was “crazy” good.
From shrimp to swordfish, you can cook any fish in crazy water. We use a fresh red snapper with this recipe, which is commonly caught in the Gulf of Mexico area and is especially delicious from Florida. (Be careful not to confuse red snapper with the North Atlantic red fish, an ocean perch that is not of the same premium.) We also added shiitake mushrooms, jalapeños, zucchini and dry vermouth to the traditional sauce…crazy, right?
Red snapper in crazy water, or “aqua pazza”
- 2 lbs red snapper filet, skin on and scaled
- ½ cup onion, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, skin removed, smashed but still intact
- ¼ cup jalapeño sliced 1/8” thin (substitute with ¼ tsp. dried red hot pepper flakes)
- ½ cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 2 ripe tomatoes skinned (substitute with 4 peeled canned plum tomatoes)
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup dry vermouth
- 2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed
- 1 medium-sized zucchini cut into batons/sticks (about 3 ½”)
- 2 Tbsp. sliced flat-leaf parsley
- 1 ½ kosher salt
- ½ tsp. freshly cracked black peppercorn
- Fill a two-quart pot with water and bring to boil.
- Score – or make an “x” into – skin on the bottom of the tomatoes.
- Place tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen skin. Dispose of skin and chop tomato roughly. Reserve for later use.
- In a 12” sauté pan, heat olive oil to medium high and add whole smashed garlic cloves and onions. Sauté and stir occasionally until onions begin to soften (about 3 minutes).
- Add shiitake mushrooms and ½ tsp. kosher salt to pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add zucchini batons, capers, jalapeño slices and chopped tomatoes. Let cook for 1-2 minutes as the flavors meld together.
- Add dry vermouth and let liquid in pan come to simmer. Add water and bring to a slow simmer for three minutes. Turn heat off.
- Season snapper with 1 tsp. kosher salt and ½ tsp. pepper on both sides of fish.
- Add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a non-stick oven proof sauté pan and heat to high. Once oil gets hot, place fish (flesh side down) onto pan to sear.
- After searing for three minutes on flesh side, turn snapper over onto skin side and turn burner down to a low simmer. Add the reserved crazy sauce and all ingredients around the red snapper filet. Bring sauce to a simmer. Cover pan with lid and simmer for 5-6 minutes or until red snapper is just cooked through. (Note: How long you cook the fish depends on the thickness. As a general guide, an inch-thick loin should cook for 10 minutes at 400°F.)
- Carefully remove red snapper from sauce and place onto a serving dish that can hold sauce.
- Add parsley to sauce. Taste and adjust flavors to your liking. (Feel free to add more salt, herbs, lemon juice, olive oil, etc.)
- Pour sauce over fish and serve.