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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Tag: fish

Heads Are Optional—A Great Recipe For Whole Grilled Fish

by on Oct.29, 2017, under Recipes and Food

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If black sea bass grew to six feet long, I’d quit swimming in Gulf or Atlantic waters. These guys are fierce. Luckily, we rarely see them over a foot long in the Gulf and a four-plus pound Atlantic version is considered a “trophy”. Bag limits vary, too. You can keep 100 pounds of 10-plus inchers in the Gulf, but only 5 13-inch plus fish on the eastern side of the state.

All too often, black sea bass are considered by-catch by anglers targeting larger reef fish. They seem to inhabit the same reefs as grouper and grunts, and are often found inshore over live bottom in the 6 to 10-foot depth. And slot-sized specimens are worth keeping for dinner. They’ll attack almost any bait you offer, especially soft plastics or jigs tipped with shrimp or squid. They can be pesky, and all too often are overlooked. However, I don’t think there’s a better tasting fish available. Yes, the soft white fillets are small, and it takes a bunch from the Gulf to make a great fried fish dinner, but frying isn’t your only option. My advice: fire up the grill, gas or charcoal, and cook them whole.

Or almost whole.

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Grilling whole fish can be tricky, and members of the grouper family, like black sea bass, have “big shoulders”. That means one end of the fish cooks more quickly than at the other. Allow at least one fish per serving, and after scaling and gutting your catch, take a pair of kitchen shears to the pectoral fins. Trim them off, but leave the tails and dorsal fins intact. Cover them with aluminum foil to prevent them from burning off while cooking. I like to leave the heads, for drama—and for some of the best-eating meat. Score both sides of your fish with a sharp knife and put a sprig or two of your favorite herb in the body cavities. Dill or rosemary work well. Generously salt the fish with sea salt and brush with extra virgin olive oil just before you put them on the grill.

Eating these small fish, in fillet form or whole, is not an exercise in big forkfuls of meat. If served whole, there’s some picking involved and to some of your guests, getting used to their dinner looking them squarely in the eye can be off-putting.

Just remember–heads are optional.

 

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Grouper All’Amatriciana—A Simple and Special Recipe

by on Oct.29, 2017, under Recipes and Food

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Summer’s over. And what a summer it’s been—at least in terms of tomatoes. Produce counters overflowed with rich-tasting Burpee’s Big Boys as well as plump Romas. As a result, prices were so reasonable that sliced tomatoes were an everyday option on many Floridians’ supper tables. Just a simple splash of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a dash of salt and pepper were all that was needed for this southern favorite. But there is an option to fresh tomatoes, and that’s especially true in Italian cooking, even at the height of the summertime “bumper crop”.

 

That option, canned tomatoes, span a range from watery and bland to rich and luscious. The best ones come from Italy’s Samo Valley, and they are distinctly (and legally) labeled “San Marzano”.   Open a can, take a whiff and you’ll know why they’re favored, year-round, over fresh tomatoes in many cooked Italian recipes.

 

Sugo all’amatriciana is a staple of Italian cooking. A combination of tomatoes, basil, garlic and cured pork, it’s an easy dish to prepare and can be served over pasta or, in the case of this recipe, as a sauce for your favorite firm white fish.

 

Grouper All’Amatriciana

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1- 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes, whole and peeled

4-ounces cured pork (pancetta), finely chopped

4-cloves garlic, chopped

1/2-teaspoon crushed red pepper

4-tbs. fresh basil leaves, chopped

1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil

4-6oz. portions grouper (or other firm-fleshed fish)

peanut oil

Zatarain’s “Wonderful” seafood breading mix

 

While you’re crisping the chopped pork in the olive oil in a saucepan, drain the tomatoes in a wire-mesh strainer while crushing them with a fork. When the bacon’s cooked, add the tomatoes, garlic, pepper, and stir. Cook about 5 minutes over low heat, taking care not to dry out the sauce. If it gets too dry, a shot of good red wine will help thin it out. Finally, add the fresh basil to the sauce.

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It’s All About Umami–The Fifth Taste!

by on Oct.29, 2017, under Recipes and Food

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Unless you’re an avid “foodie” you may not have heard about umami, one of the five basic tastes, along with sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness. It’s hard to describe but “savory” or “meaty” seem appropriate.   And you’ve likely experienced umami when you’ve eaten soy-based sauces, smoked fish, mushrooms or Asian foods. According to food historians, the popularity of ketchup is based largely on umami!

From the standpoint of a food chemist, umami has lots to do with glutamates and their relationship with other tastes, especially salty and sweet. From the standpoint of a person taking a bite of food, it’s what makes food “yummy”, sometimes with a tingle on the back of the mouth and throat. That’s the reason monosodium glutamate (MSG) is often added to food in restaurants (not just the Asian ones!) where taste is what brings return customers. And, by the way, there’s a new school of thought that MSG doesn’t create the dramatic allergic reactions once attributed to it. Now you’ll find recommendations that MSG, like other things that make food and drink taste good, sugar and alcohol for instance, be consumed in moderation.

We’ve all seen the ubiquitous menu item, “ teriyaki fish” in restaurants. That’s just the (usually unimpressive) tip of the iceberg with regards to umami-flavored foods. Simply taking a slab of fish and soaking it for 20 minutes in store-bought teriyaki sauce is the easy way out. My advice is that you spend a bit more time with your preparation and kick your food up a notch, using simple Asian ingredients like miso, sake and mirin. All these ingredients combine to make a tasty marinade for seafood, and a savory glaze to finish.

 

Miso Marinade and Glaze

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1/2-cup mirin (sweet rice wine)*

1/2-cup sake (rice wine)*

4 tbs. red miso paste (made from fermented soybeans)*

1 tbs. sugar

3 tbs. vegetarian oyster mushroom sauce *

2 tsp. toasted sesame oil *

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbs. ginger (finely grated or paste)

2 tbs. sesame seeds

 

Combine all the ingredients, reserving half the sesame seeds for garnish. Marinate firm-fleshed fish (swordfish, tuna, king mackerel, wahoo or cobia), shrimp or sea scallops for about 20-minutes. Don’t soak it too long. While the seafood is grilling (gas is good; charcoal is better), reduce marinade into a glaze the consistency of heavy cream. Spoon or brush the glaze onto the seafood just before serving and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

 

 

*These ingredients are available at Asian specialty groceries, but are becoming more and more present on the shelves of larger supermarkets like Publix.

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