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Tag: seafood

A Chili Change-Up….Try Seafood Chili

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


Out there in “food land” there’s an ongoing debate: “Should chili have beans?” With or without, I think there are arguments for either recipe. Chili on a cold winter day should have beans. Chili on hot dogs should not. But how about meat? Having vegetarians at your table is a good reason to consider meatless, so why not a compromise—with shellfish? And beans.


While cooking everyday chili can be easy (from a can or from the Publix deli), really good homemade chili takes some time and energy. That’s especially true if you are using it as the basis for a delicious seafood meal. Seafood, wild-caught or store-bought isn’t cheap so why not pair it with your best culinary effort?


This 4-step recipe involves making your own chili stock from several varieties of dried peppers, adding some spices and vegetables and then finishing with a medley of fresh shrimp, scallops and mussels.



Chili Stock


4 cups vegetable stock

3 dried chipotle chilies

5 dried New Mexico (Hatch) chilies

3 dried ancho chiles

1 clove garlic, whole2

2 cups water


Carefully, with rubber gloves, remove the stems and seeds from the chilies. Add, with the garlic, to the water and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Remove from heat; let cool about a half-hour. Then blend to a smooth consistency.


Spice Blend


1/2 tbs. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

½ tsp. mustard powder

pinch ground clove

pinch ground cinnamon


Mix the spices thoroughly.



1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 15-ounce can, red beans (drained)

1 onion

1 bell pepper

2 cloves garlic

2 cups corn kernels

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


Dice the onion , bell pepper and mince the garlic. In a large pot, with the olive oil, cook the onion, bell pepper and garlic until transparent. Add the spices and tomato paste, stir and cook another 3 or 4 minutes. Dump in the chili stock and the can of tomatoes, with their juice. Then add the corn and beans and bring to a low simmer.




2 pounds mussels

1 pound medium-to-large shrimp

1 pound bay scallops

1 cup white wine


Peel and devein the shrimp and remove any beards from the mussels. Put the mussels in a pan with the wine, cover and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and scallops to the simmering chili and when the mussels are open, add them, with the wine. Cook about 4 more minutes or until the shrimp and scallops are done.


Add salt to taste and serve with chips or a corn muffin.


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Easy Peasy Seafood Pizza

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



Over the past 50 years, pizzas have, in my opinion, moved from the sublime to the ridiculous. A simple “tomato pie” topped with mozzarella cheese and pepperoni is now hard to find, and pizzas topped like cheeseburgers or peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches have made their way to “pizzeria” menu boards.   Don’t get me wrong, I like fancy pizzas as much as the next guy, but…


So how about a fancy pizza that’s easy to prepare and one that will excite your family and friends when they come to your dinner table?


Pesto Pizza with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Seafood


First, make some pizza dough in your food processor, let it rise twice. Next, crush basil, garlic and pine nuts and olive oil with your mortar and pestle. Then, dry some San Marzano tomatoes in your food dehydrator and soak them in extra virgin olive oil for a day or so. Finally, when it’s time to cook, form the dough into a 12 to 16-inch round.


Just kidding!!! Here’s my simple method with easy ingredients:


Buy a pre-made pizza crust (I like the 2-for-$2.99 crusts at Trader Joe’s.) or some pizza dough at the Publix bakery (In either case, buy several–I keep pre-made crusts in the freezer for last-minute meals).


Pre-heat your oven to 450-degrees. Form the dough, if necessary, and put it on a lightly oiled pan. Top with a layer of store-bought pesto, followed by chunks of mozzarella cheese and some well-drained store-bought sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil).   Sprinkle with some sea salt, a few crushed red pepper flakes and some dry oregano.   Cook until cheese melts and the crust starts to brown, 10-15 minutes.


At this point, the choice of seafood is yours. I like 40-50 count shrimp, peeled and deveined. You might consider bay scallops, sliced sea scallops, clams, squid rings or even thin slices of pre-grilled octopus. The final cooking time is up to you and depends on how long it takes to cook your seafood. 10-minutes should be sufficient, and you may want to finish the cooking under the broiler, to add color.


Give the pizza a few minutes to cool after it comes out of the oven and then top with some shaved Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of chopped Italian parsley. Then, hide the empty jars and packages—and take credit for all the “work” you’ve done!


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Keep Seafood COLD, Not Just COOL — For Safety’s Sake!

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


When fishing, there’s never enough ice. Of course, keeping drinks and lunch cool is important, but “cool” doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to the safe storage of our catch. Once boated, both shellfish and finfish begin to degrade quickly. There are, however, a few tricks to remember.


The first thing to do is to get your ice as cold as possible. If you plan a fishing trip, throw a small bag of ice in the cooler the night before. Pre-cooling the cooler will temper it, and ice will last longer in the next day’s heat. Then, as close to your point of departure as is possible, fill you cooler completely with ice. And, if possible, put a couple reusable frozen ice packs like the Arctic Ice Tundra or a handful of frozen bottles of water under your store-bought ice. That will prevent some melting and your ice will last longer.


Second, once your catch starts coming aboard, drain any water off your ice, add a few quarts of salt water to create a super-cooled slurry, and put your catch into the ice right away. Don’t leave fish on the deck to die, as just a few minutes in the hot sun can make a big difference at the dinner table.


Finally, with regards to seafood safety, use an appropriate cooler. Unfortunately, the better coolers are the most expensive, but they do hold ice longer. Know that white coolers reflect sunlight and stay cooler while dark ones absorb heat, and any cooler kept in the shade will work best. And if you already own a dark surfaced cooler, consider covering it with a white towel.



Island Hotel’s Hearts of Palm Salad


Here’s a cool recipe that’s perfect for a hot summer day. It was originally created by Bessie Gibbs at Cedar Key’s Island Hotel in the 1950’s. The current owners of the hotel, Andy and Stanley Bair, shared it with me. It’s simple, and flexible. The key to its unique flavor is the dressing, the hearts of palm, and the chopped, sugared dates.


Seasonal greens and fruits (sliced kiwis, grapes, strawberries, melon chunks)

Sugared dates, chopped

Hearts of palm, cut into bite-sized pieces





Dressing (serves 4-6)


Thoroughly combine the following and re-freeze. Put a scoop atop the assembled salad just before you serve.


1-pint vanilla ice cream

1-pint lime sherbet

1/4-cup peanut butter

1/4-cup mayonnaise

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Don’t Miss A Meal at BeckyJack’s Food Shack in Weeki Wachee, FL!

by on Sep.17, 2015, under Hernando and Pasco Gulf Coast, Recipes and Food

BeckyJack's Food Shack 8070 Cortez Blvd. Weeki Wachee, FL

BeckyJack’s Food Shack
8070 Cortez Blvd.
Weeki Wachee, FL

Whether you’re coming back from fishing at Bayport or Hernando Beach, watching the Mermaid Show at Weeki Wachee Spring State Park, or just driving down US19 in Hernando County, a stop at BeckyJack’s Food Shack is a “must”.  Yes, the joint is truly a shack, and it’s only open Wednesday thru Sunday (Noon ’til 8PM), but you can expect some excellent food there.  The house specialty is the “crunchy fish”, coated in corn flakes and almonds and fried to a golden, crispy finish.  If you’re “sorta hungry”, order the sandwich, but if you’re a big eater, try the crunchy fish platter with a side of their famous bean salad.

There's a good chance you'll have a short wait for a table at Beckyjack's

There’s a good chance you’ll have a short wait for a table at Beckyjack’s

The Crunchy Fish platter is worth the wait--and it's a bargain at only $9

The Crunchy Fish platter is worth the wait–and it’s a bargain at only $9.  They’re also famous for their hamburgers and Reubens.

The interior at BeckyJack's is eclectic, fun...and even a bit over the top!

The interior at BeckyJack’s is eclectic, fun…and even a bit over the top!


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Stuff Your Peppers With Tasty Jambalaya

by on May.25, 2014, under Recipes and Food

Until I tried this seafood recipe, I considered bell peppers merely a dressy vehicle for serving “Hamburger Helper” to a crowd of hungry kids.  But when stuffed with a shrimp and sausage version of Creole jambalaya, this simple dish reaches new heights and is worthy of a place at even the most upscale dinner table.

While jambalaya’s heritage is Caribbean, it can now be found throughout the American south, often varying in style and taste from one small town to the next.   Some versions are veggie-heavy and tomato-red; others look less vivid—but all are centered about the key ingredients of long-grain rice and sausage.  In my version, onion, garlic, celery and tomatoes set the stage for the sausage and shrimp, but unlike some recipes I’ve seen, I don’t use bell peppers as part of the jambalaya mix.  I prefer to sweeten each spicy bite with a chunk of the “pepper package” as I proceed in clearing my plate.

Basing a meal with rice–or pasta–has always been a convenient way to stretch a little bit of meat or seafood a long way.  However, my recipe relies on plenty of sausage and shrimp.  Use only the freshest shrimp you can find and pick a sausage that suits your palate.  Andouille can be hot and spicy and if your family or guests have less-than-cast iron stomachs, consider using something less fiery.   Specialty sausages made with chicken or turkey also work well, as do chunks of Florida lobster or bay scallops.   But in any case, expect kudos for this filling and tasty entrée.

Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya Stuffed Peppers

3 tbs. olive oil

1 jalapeno pepper

1 small yellow onion

3 garlic cloves

2 stalks celery

3 tsp. Creole seasoning (Tony Chachere’s is the best.)

2 springs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

2 tbs. tomato paste

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

4 cups chicken stock

1 pound spicy Andouille sausage, thinly-sliced (I buy Savoie’s at Publix.)

2-1/2 cups long-grain rice

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

6 large red bell peppers, tops cut off, seeds and ribs removed

Tabasco sauce

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat, Then sauté finely chopped (in a food processor or by hand) jalapeno pepper, onion, garlic and celery until transparent.  Add Creole seasoning, thyme, bay leaves, tomato paste, tomatoes, chicken stock and sausage and bring to a boil.  Add rice, stir, cover pot and reduce heat to simmer for about 15-minutes.  Add shrimp to the mix and cook about 5 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and the shrimp are no longer translucent.

While the rice mix is cooking, pre-heat oven to 350-degrees.

Discard bay leaves and thyme stalks.  Stuff bell peppers with jambalaya mixture and apply a splash of Tabasco.  Place in oven, on middle rack, and bake about 30-minutes or until peppers are fork-tender.  At the table, add a sprinkle of Creole seasoning and let everyone dig in!

Serves 6

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Redfish On The Half Shell–A Hunk ‘o Burnin’ Love

by on May.25, 2014, under Recipes and Food

When it comes to grilling redfish fillets with their skin and scales intact, known as “Redfish on the Half Shell”, there’s no better recipe than the one given me by my fishing buddy and Cajun chef, Joey Landreneau.  The tough hide of skin and scales ensures a barrier from the high heat necessary to quickly cook the fish while keeping the meat tender, yet firm.

It’s important to not over-spice redfish.  For me, blackening this fish with a heavy coat of spice does nothing more than cover up its nutty flavor.  Save your blackening spices and technique for species that don’t have much flavor, like tilapia, and use Joey’s simple one-hour marinade. Use a half-cup of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, and the juice of a lemon for two upper-slot redfish fillets.  You can add a light sprinkling of Cajun spice at the grill if you like the flavors it imparts.  Just don’t overdo it.

Luckily, redfish freeze fairly well if vacuum-bagged with a Zip-Vac, or similar device.  I don’t recommend months of freezing, but keeping one or two from a few weekly fishing trips will soon get you enough to feed a family or small dinner party.  Allow one fillet per person.  To prepare, put the fillets in a shallow baking dish and pour in the whisked-together marinade.  An hour in advance of dinner is ample, but be sure to turn the fillets every 15 minutes or so.  At grilling time, place the fillets skin-side-down and cook uncovered until the top surface of the fish turns white, meaning it’s almost cooked.  Then, finish the cooking by carefully flipping the fillet to the “meat side” for just a few minutes.  Most of the actual cooking takes place with the skin side down and this final touch is mostly to impart color and grill marks.  Total grilling time depends on your particular cooking gear and the thickness of the fillets, but you’ll soon learn to judge doneness by pressing a fillet with your finger.  Too soft means not cooked enough; too hard means overcooked—grilling tricks you’ll learn with experience.

A spicy side dish does go well with this entrée, and there’s nothing more popular at our house than my wife’s red beans, served over rice.  Preparing the beans is at the opposite end of the spectrum of “quick and simple” from the redfish, but I think you’ll soon find it a staple as a seafood side dish—or as a full meal if you manage to freeze some leftovers.

Mary’s Red Beans

2-pounds dried light red kidney beans

1-pound bacon, cut into small pieces

2 large onions, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1-cup celery, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1-tbs ground cayenne pepper

1-tbs ground black pepper

1-tbs dry thyme

2 bay leaves

1- large ham bone (Try your local HoneyBaked Ham store, where they’re $7.99–and meaty.)

1-pound Andouille sausage (Savoie’s is excellent, and available at many Publix Supermarkets)

Tabasco sauce, to taste

Salt, to taste

In a large pot, cover beans with water and soak overnight.  Barely covering the beans with water is sufficient.

The next day, fry the bacon in a larger pot, then add the onion, pepper, celery and garlic.  Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are transparent, then add the beans with the water in which they soaked.  Add the spices, ham bone, sausage and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, for at least 3 hours, until the “gravy” thickens.  Be careful to not add too much extra water as the beans cook and hold off on the salt until the end.  The saltiness of the ham may be just enough to suit your taste.  You can add Tabasco at the stove, or at the table.

Serve over white rice either as a side or main dish.

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In The Mood For “Mexican”? Try This Fish Taco Recipe

by on Sep.27, 2013, under Recipes and Food

From my Florida Sportsman Sportsman’s Kitchen column, May 2012

I had an awful dream the other night.  I was at a classy seaside Mexican joint and was served fish tacos.  What made the dream a nightmare was that they were made with frozen fish sticks and dressed with ketchup!

Making fish tacos isn’t rocket science.  The most difficult part of the process is deciding what sort of fish to feature—and what to use for garnishes.  For me, the fish decision is easy, especially when my friends at Gainesville’s Northwest Seafood call and say they’ve just unloaded a boatload of grouper.  Whole grouper mean lots of things to lots of people, but to me it’s ‘cheeks’.  Grouper cheeks are the most delicate part of the fish and are often discarded by anglers at the cleaning table.  That’s not so for fish houses and retailers who handle whole fish.  Often, though, the easily harvested cheeks rarely make it to customers’ tables.  Unless you ask.

It takes a certain size fish to get significant cheek meat.  ‘Keeper’ grouper will provide two small medallions, each weighing only an ounce or two—twenty pounders will provide enough for a sandwich.  Excising the meat is easy.  Using a very sharp, flexible blade, fillet knife, simply cut the cheek away from the head.  If you leave the cheek attached by a slight tab of skin, you can then remove the entire skin in just one additional move of the knife.   For fish tacos, allow three or four small cheeks each.    And don’t forget, while you’re working on the fish’s head, that there’s also some good meat to be found in the throat.  Like cheeks, throats are sometimes overlooked or ignored, but they also provide a nice piece of tender meat that’s also good for tacos.

I’m a firm believer that tacos should “crunch”.  That means hard-shell corn tacos, crisp veggies and fried fish.  For breading, I prefer using equal amounts of crushed Saltines and all-purpose flour, seasoned with a bit of Cajun spice and some salt and black pepper.  If you heat your oil (canola or peanut) to about 375-degrees and don’t crowd the pan, you’ll get perfectly fried fish in just a few minutes.  As soon as the cheeks are golden-brown and drained on paper towels, it’s time to assemble your tacos.  Start with a layer of spicy salsa—my favorite is made with avocadoes, tomatillos, onions and cilantro.  Then, add some slaw and the fried fish.  A topping of sour cream is optional and something I usually leave up to my guests.  I’ve also found that while my Avocado and Tomatillo Salsa works well as the base layer for these fish cheek tacos (We call them “Cheek-Os”!), that it’s also a popular stand-alone appetizer, served with salty tortilla chips.

As is the case with many recipes, mine for fish cheek tacos should serve as a basis for creating your own version of this tasty entrée.  Try soft tacos, grilled fish, and vary the toppings, depending on what’s available locally or seasonally.  But no matter what your do, prepare just a few more than what you think your guests might eat.  I’ll bet they eat them all!

Cilantro Slaw

1 package (or 1.5 cups) shredded cabbage

1/2 –cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

3/4 -cup sour cream

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

juice of one lime (Key lime if available)

Salt and black pepper to taste

Avocado and Tomatillo Salsa

6 tomatillos

1 medium white onion

4 ripe Roma (plum) tomatoes

1-cup cilantro leaves

2 ripe Florida avocados

1/4-cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and black pepper to taste

Remove husks from tomatillos and chop, with the onion, in a food processor.  Remove to mixing bowl.  Repeat with tomatoes and cilantro.  Then chop avocado in food processor, taking care not to puree.  Add to contents of mixing bowl, adding the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper as you fold ingredients together with a spatula.

Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to meld.  Serve with tortilla chips as an appetizer or as a dressing for fish tacos.

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Florida Seafood Festival Nov. 1-2, 2013 at Apalachicola

by on Sep.24, 2013, under Apalachicola, Carrabelle and St. George Island

The 50th Annual Florida Seafood Festival kicks off in Apalachicola November 1-2. Heralded as the State’s oldest maritime event, this annual fall classic is a celebration of the Franklin County commercial seafood industry. This is the 50th year of the Florida Seafood Festival that promises to feature delicious seafood, arts and crafts exhibits, seafood related events and musical entertainment including recording artist Kellie Pickler.

For more information, click here.

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Apalachicola Hosts Annual Oyster Cook-off Jan. 19, 2013

by on Jan.03, 2013, under Apalachicola, Carrabelle and St. George Island

Get out your recipes and join in as Apalachicola hosts the Third Annual Apalachicola Oyster Cook-off on Friday and Saturday, January 18-19, 2013. The Friday event will be an evening silent art auction at the Apalachicola Center for History, Culture & Arts on Water Street. Saturday’s festivities are from noon- 5 pm. There will be lots of seafood to sample in addition to oysters.  Childrens’ activities are planned as well as live music. Proceeds benefit the Apalachicola Volunteer Fire Department. Click here to learn more.

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Seafood Festival in Apalachicola, FL Nov. 2-3, 2012

by on Oct.19, 2012, under Apalachicola, Carrabelle and St. George Island

Friday, November 2, 2012 through Saturday, November 3, 2012

Phone Number



Florida Seafood Festival

49th annual Florida’s oldest maritime event, the Florida Seafood Festival, is a two-day celebration of great fresh quality seafood that annually draws thousands of visitors to the historic town of Apalachicola in scenic Franklin County. The Festival is held at the mouth of the Apalachicola river under the shady oaks of Apalachicola’s Battery Park. The festival features delicious seafood, arts and crafts exhibits, seafood related events and musical entertainment – this year’s headliner is Lee Brice. Some of the notable events includes Oyster Eating and Oyster Shucking contest, Blue Crab Races, Cooking Contest, a downtown Parade, 5k Redfish Run and the Blessing of the Fleet.

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