Snookin 'N Cookin: Snook reopening to the delight of anglers and cooks everywhere

Capt. Seth Hayes recently took out three chefs as part of a 'Chefs Day Out' fishing charter, where they caught this beautiful snook.

Capt. Seth Hayes recently took out three chefs as part of a "Chefs Day Out" fishing charter, where they caught this beautiful snook.

The latest Snookin 'N Cookin recipe is mushroom and boursin snook phyllo with a blushing vodka tomato cream.

The latest Snookin 'N Cookin recipe is mushroom and boursin snook phyllo with a blushing vodka tomato cream.

Extra, extra! Read all about it! Twenty-eight inches to 33 inches! One for you and one for me! After being closed since December 2009, we can now put a snook in the box! I don’t know who’s more excited, the redfish population or us!

Although I do firmly agree with the closure for many reasons, it’s great to be able to take one home to the dinner table again.

Snook fishing right now seems to be good almost everywhere. From the bushes, bars and points, to the passes, beaches and near shore structures. Live bait is always a favorite when snook fishing, but they are slamming artificial baits as well. In all honesty, the tide you are fishing is going to be more important than actually what you are using at the end of the line. Snook bite best when the water is moving, so pick a tide that moves some water and get to it. Day or night, don’t fright, if the water’s moving, there’s a bite!

The snook regulations have stayed the same, so remember: one snook per person, per day from Sept.1 till Dec. 1, and 28-33 inches measured flat with the tail pinched slightly. Those are the rules in the Gulf of Mexico, Monroe County and the Everglades National Park, as outlined by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The regulations are different if you head to the Atlantic side. Log onto the FWC website at for more details.

Once that cooler lid is tight and you’ve worked up that appetite, make a quick stop and pick up a few items from the list for my flat out all-time favorite snook recipe.

Mushroom and boursin snook phyllo with blushing vodka tomato cream

For the sauce:

Olive oil

2 ½ cups heavy cream (reduced and skimmed)

1 Spanish onion chopped

4-5 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

4-5 ounces of Tito’s Vodka

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Pinch of crushed red pepper

Fresh chopped basil and rosemary (to your liking)

Reduce the cream and set aside. Sweat off the onion in a couple tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Next, add the garlic and cook for about three minutes, stirring as needed.

Carefully add the vodka and flambé until the fire burns out. Now add the crushed tomatoes, water, sugar, salt, pepper and crushed chili flakes, and let cook for 2-3 hours on low heat, stirring as needed. Last, add your fresh herbs and reduced cream and puree till smooth. Keep warm until serving.

For the fish:

6 four-ounce snook portions (boneless/skinless)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pack/2 sleeves of phyllo dough

1 pound butter, clarified and warm

3 shallots chopped fine

3 cloves fresh garlic, shaved thin

1 ripe fresh tomato, chopped and seeded

1 ½ pounds fresh button mushrooms, sliced

1 pack Boursin fine garlic and herb cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Start by searing off the fish filets with just salt and pepper in olive oil on high heat for roughly 1 minute per side and place in the fridge for later. Next, sauté off all of the mushrooms on medium high heat till all the moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms have started to brown.

Now add the chopped tomato and again cook on the same heat until the majority of the liquid is cooked out. Next, add the shallots and garlic and turn the heat off. Stir over the remaining heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Now add the entire pack of the soft cheese and stir softly until incorporated. At this point add your salt and pepper if needed and place the mixture in a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Once the fish and the mushroom mixture are cooled, now it’s time to work with the phyllo. Start by cleaning a non-stick work space and then butter it with the clarified butter and a butter brush. Lay one sheet of phyllo dough down at a time, buttering each layer as you go (work fast). After 6-7 layers, place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mushroom mixture in the middle of the phyllo and then your seared snook fillet on top. Carefully wrap them tightly using a spatula or your hands and set on your preferred baking pan. After they are all completed, bake off between 350-375 degrees until flaky and golden brown. Mine are usually in for about 20 minutes.

Ladle the sauce generously, grab a snook strudel and try not to get knocked down by everyone rushing in for their plate! This has been a snook staple for me all of my life and I know you will enjoy it as much as I have.

Until next time, get out there and catch the flavor of Southwest Florida!

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Seth and Astrid Hayes run Snookin ‘N Cookin, a Naples-based fishing charter company that also offers private dinners and parties. They can be reached at either (239) 994-1593, (239) 994-3253, via e-mail at, or online at

© 2013 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 1

johnnycakes writes:

Its amazing that snook season is open again. Such a wonderful fighting fish and so good to eat too. We love good cooking so we applaud the time that someone took to provide this recipe. I encourage you to try Seth and Astrid's business, but whatever you do don't spoil the fish by trying to cook it this way.

This recipe is maybe from the 1970's or 80's. Smothering wonderful fish in rich sauce and pastry is what we did a quarter of a century ago. No more. Sear or broil it quickly with aromatics and have lemon or any other citrus ready to squeeze over it.

Whatever you do don't smother the wonderful flavour of snook with all these extras. Simple is best. Check how they cook fish at any Michelin starred restaurant anywhere on the planet. A plate of fresh snook might cost you $50 ... if you can get it, but it will be simply grilled or broiled and served with aromatics.

For us, it's free if you know the right water, right tide, right bait or right fisherman! How wonderful.

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