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Tag: sportsman’s kitchen

A Chili Change-Up….Try Seafood Chili

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

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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.

 

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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.

Vegetables

 

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.

 

Seafood

 

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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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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Mister Crab–or in French, Crabe Monsieur

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

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Translation: “mister crab”

 

If you’re looking for a tasty simple-to-prepare summertime meal with a fancy French name, this recipe’s for you.

 

I’ve been lucky to spend some time in Paris (France, not Texas or Tennessee!), where simple and tasty croques monsieur are the focus of lunch at almost any street side café. Simple, and usually served with a lightly dressed salad and a glass of wine, this French take on a grilled ham and cheese sandwich can’t be beat. This version, with the addition of crabmeat takes it to yet another level.

 

Mister Crab (serves 6)

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6-thick slices of crusty sourdough bread

Unsalted butter

1/2-pound shredded gruyere (not “Swiss”) cheese

6-thin slices prosciutto (not “boiled”) ham

2 cups whole (not “skim”) milk

1/2 –cup crème fraiche or heavy cream

2-tbs. all-purpose flour

pinch salt and pepper

1-pound cooked lump (not “claw”) crabmeat

pinch sweet paprika

pinch cayenne pepper

pinch dried tarragon

zest of one lemon

2-tsp. chopped chives (half for garnish)

1-tsp chopped Italian parsley (for garnish)

 

 

This recipe involves several steps, and the use of quality ingredients is critical. Don’t skimp on the bread, the ham, the cheese and especially the crabmeat. Like most French dishes, what goes in makes a difference!

 

First, generously butter both sides and toast the bread slices in a skillet. Second, make a béchamel sauce by constantly whisking the milk, cream/crème fraiche, salt/pepper and two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat until thick. Third, combine the crabmeat with the paprika, cayenne pepper, tarragon, lemon zest and chives and about half of the béchamel sauce. Assemble the open-faced sandwiches beginning with the ham, a generous serving of the crabmeat mix and then a layer of the shredded cheese. Finally spoon some of the reserved béchamel sauce on top and place in a hot, 425-degree, oven for about 10 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.

 

To serve, sprinkle with chives and parsley and plate alongside a simple green salad. And don’t forget the wine!

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Yet ANOTHER Shrimp and Grits Recipe!

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

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If you want to start an argument about southern seafood, just mention “shrimp and grits”. Yes, while there are differing points of view on hushpuppies (sweet or savory; with or without onions; with guava jelly or not) and coatings for fried fish (flour or corn meal), none seem to be more argued about than the “proper” way of preparing and presenting shrimp and grits.

I’m set in my ways, and until recently and I’ve prepared my shrimp and grits per the recipe in my 2013 Sportsman’s Kitchen column, but without the cheese. Personally, I’ve always thought the concept of cheese grits was brought south by carpetbaggers who didn’t appreciate grits, white or yellow, in their natural state. But that’s neither here nor there. The bottom line is that I’m always willing to expand my horizons and try a different version of a recipe.

Here’s a new and more aromatic twist on an old standard. The addition of small tomatoes and a cubanelle pepper make it an attractive and tasty offering at your next seafood dinner.

And yes, I like it with the cheese!

 

Shrimp and Grits 2.0

 

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1-1/2 pounds, medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (Peel them yourself and reserve the shells)

1- bay leaf

1-tsp. dry tarragon

1-clove garlic, crushed

1-cup white grits

8-oz. grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

Hot sauce (Tabasco or Cholula)

1/2-stick unsalted butter

1-medium cubanelle pepper, seeded and chopped

1-large shallot, minced

1/4-pound cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

2-scallions, thinly sliced

2-strips crisp bacon, chopped

 

First, make a shrimp stock by bringing the reserved shrimp shells, the garlic, bay leaf, tarragon and two cups of water to a boil, then reducing heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain out the solids and boil the remaining liquid, reducing it to about a half-cup. Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the grits slowly, stirring until well mixed. Simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. When done, add the cheese and mix thoroughly. Add salt, ground black pepper and hot sauce, to taste.

While the grits are cooking, sauté the shrimp in the butter, taking care not to overcook. Set aside.

Over medium heat, cook the shallot, scallions and cubanelle pepper in the shrimp stock until soft.

To serve, spoon the grits into individual bowls and top with the shrimp and the vegetable mix. Garnish with the chopped bacon.

(Serves 4)

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Go Bananas OVER Bananas–The BEST Banana Pudding

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

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So…? What’s the deal with bananas? They’re rumored to bring bad luck to fishermen and boaters, but they sure do taste good. They’re also easy to transport, each coming with its own zipper-like packaging. And if you’ve watched old-time pirate movies, you know that even women were at one time considered bad luck, too. Hopefully we’ve now gone beyond silly superstitions. I, for one, have caught lots of nice redfish and seatrout while munching bananas (with girls) on my boat.

Closer to home, and the kitchen, bananas play an important role for many southerners—in the role comfort food. And with the exception of maybe a serving of grits or a plate of mashed potatoes, there’s no better way to comfort your soul than with a bowl of warm banana pudding.

I suspect there are many approaches to making banana pudding. The worst is often served on restaurant buffets where “banana” likely means that a banana was simply waved over a bowl of vanilla pudding. It’s got to have bananas, folks! Somewhere in the middle is a version made with bananas and vanilla wafers, but with instant pudding mix. And at the apex of the pyramid lies the “real thing”— cooked vanilla custard with lots of bananas and vanilla wafers.

The tropical flavor of bananas makes banana pudding the perfect dessert for almost any seafood or game dinner, or as the perfect get-well dish for a sick fishing buddy. Add some crushed pineapple, per my friend Ann’s recipe, and you’ll get a double dose of fragrance and tastiness.

 

Classic Banana Pudding (With A Twist)

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The Custard

 

1/2-cup sugar

1/3-cup all-purpose flour

1/4-tsp. salt

3-egg yolks (beaten)

2-cups whole milk

1/2-tsp. vanilla extract

 

In a saucepan, over low heat, or in a double boiler, mix the sugar, flour and salt. Whisk the milk, vanilla and egg yolks together in a separate bowl, add slowly to the dry mix, and stir constantly for 10-12 minutes or until thickened.

 

The Meringue

 

3-egg whites

1/4-cup sugar

 

Beat the egg whites until very soft peaks are formed, then add the sugar and beat until dissolved and the peaks are firm.

 

The Assembly

 

1-box of of Nilla vanilla wafers

5 or 6 ripe bananas, sliced

1-cup crushed pineapple, drained thoroughly

 

Line the bottom of a 1-1/2 quart baking dish with a layer of vanilla wafers, banana slices and a sprinkling of pineapple. Add about a third of the custard, and continue with at least two more layers of wafers and fruit, ending with a top layer of custard. Top with the meringue and bake at 350-degrees until the peaks are browned. Garnish with some more vanilla wafers and serve warm. Or if there are any leftovers serve them cold for breakfast the next morning!

 

Serves 4. Or maybe 2. Or sometimes just 1.

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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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Looking For A Simply Devilish Summer Dinner?–Try Scallops Fra Diavolo

by on Jun.24, 2014, under Recipes and Food

Summer means one thing on Florida’s Big Bend—recreational scallop season.  The general madness that comes with crowded marinas, boat ramps and waterways from Bayport to St. Marks bothers lots of folks, but I’ve learned to take all of that in stride and to focus on the dinner table.

Snorkeling for scallops is lots of fun, but coming home tired and waterlogged never puts me in the mood to cook.  Luckily, shucked scallops fare well in the freezer for a few weeks, so tucking a few limits away isn’t a bad idea.  Bite for tender bite, there’s no product of the Gulf tastier than a freshly shucked sea scallop.  And while the adductor muscles are great raw, right out of the shell, most folks would rather have them cooked.

My traditional “down home” method of scallop preparation involves a light dusting of flour and frying in butter.  But here’s a simple upscale recipe for scallops in a spicy tomato sauce with pasta that’s more fit for a hot date than a hot night at the fish camp.

Scallops Fra Diavolo

4 tbs. olive oil

6 cloves fresh garlic, crushed

1 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. sugar

Crushed red pepper flakes, the “devil’s touch”

1-pound (product of a 2-gallon personal limit) scallops, shucked and patted dry with

paper towels

1-pound linguine or fettuccine pasta

Chopped Italian parsley or basil (as garnish)

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and add the garlic.  When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the tomatoes.  Add the salt and sugar and bring to a boil.  Finally, add the crushed red pepper.  Start with a teaspoon, but depending on your tolerance for heat, more may be required.  Then simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and then cook the pasta for 8 to 10-minutes.  Don’t overcook the pasta, draining it to a colander when it’s still slightly chewy, or al dente.

When you add the pasta to the water, heat the remaining oil over high heat in a skillet and sear the scallops, taking care not to overcook them (into the consistency of rubber pencil erasers).  One or twominutes should do the trick.  Add the scallops to the sauce and simmer another minute or two.

Spoon the sauce over the pasta and garnish with parsley or basil.  Serve with a chunk of crusty bread and a nice white wine.  (Serves 4)

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Smoked Fish and Helen’s Famous Smoked Mullet Dip

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

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em


I suspect the first smoked fish appeared in the diets of early Floridians as the result of a hot cooking fire gone cold.   Likely, a late afternoon thunderstorm interrupted a Calusa chef’s attempt at roasting some mullet and the buttonwood-fueled fire was covered with an umbrella of palmetto fronds.  That effort at keeping the fire alive did just that, but starved it of oxygen and created billows of smoke instead of heat.  As fish flesh isn’t that dense, just the duration of a short squall provided enough time to create a new menu item, one that’s maintained its popularity until this day–smoked fish.

Many species of Florida fish lend themselves to smoking.  While dried fish (cod, in particular) are popular in many cultures, there’s a distinct difference between dried and smoked fish.  Oily fish seem to smoke best as the oil keeps the meat from drying out during the process.   With the exception of southeast Florida, mullet are probably the state’s most popular smoked fish, followed by members of the mackerel family.  Other choices include swordfish, wahoo and cobia.   Smoked fish should be moist and most important, still taste like fish.

There are a multitude of fish-smoking devices available.   The trick to successful fish smoking is to keep the smoker smoking and to keep the fish away from the heat.  I was once advised to “keep the smoker just hot enough to keep the flies off the meat”.  If you want to grill or roast your fish, put it over the fire, otherwise use indirect heat to create smoke.  I suspect there are hundreds of smoking devices on the market and sometimes the simple ones are the best.  A kettle-style cooker works fine, as does a custom built dual-axle smoker wagon.  I’ve used everything from plywood crates to abandoned refrigerators to smoke some pretty good fish.

The bottom line for smoking is simplicity, but there are a few basic “rules” that you might consider.  One, choose your wood carefully.  Dense, hard buttonwood, a mangrove-look-alike, was once popular for smoking wood, but it’s scarce and I discourage using it.  In fact, many local ordinances forbid harvesting it.  Hickory can be used, but I prefer mesquite.  Both are readily available as chunks, and an overnight soak in a bucket of water is all you need to keep them from not     flaming up.  No matter your choice, start some charcoal briquettes away from your smoker and add them just a few at a time to keep the wood smoking.  Second, don’t over-do the seasonings.  I like my smoked fish to taste like fish, not like “Junior-Bob’s Smokehouse Seasoning”.  A light coat of vegetable oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper will do.  Let the smoke do the rest.  And finally, don’t over-cook your fish.  You don’t want it rare, but you do want it moist, and there’s no rule that says you can’t peel a piece off a fillet for a taste test!

Why smoke your own fish?  I smoke mine because I want it fresh, and there’s nothing better than fish that’s  “hot off the smoker”.  I don’t want it cold or warmed-up, and in many cases my smoked fish never gets too far from the smoker before it’s quickly consumed by eager diners.

Consider holding your next summertime party around the finale of a fish-smoking session, serving Helen’s Famous Smoked Fish Dip as an appetizer and a couple of fillets of smoked fish as the main course.    Just add Key Lime Pie and some cold beverages for rave reviews!

Helen’s Famous Smoked Fish Dip


2 cups smoked fish meat

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup chopped scallions

¼ cup chopped celery

¼ cup chopped Gherkin pickles or pickle relish

1 tbs Tabasco Sauce

Juice of a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ingredients with a fork, taking care not to create a paste.  Chunky is good.  And Helen (my Mom) always insisted that her smoked fish dip only be served with genuine Wheat Thin crackers.

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Lionfish–Just Kill ‘Em & Cook ‘Em

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

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for catch-and-release or for just keeping enough fish for dinner.   But then there are lionfish, Pterois volitans, an invasive species threatening to eat juvenile reef fish and take over much of Florida’s offshore waters.

Previously found only in aquariums, these spectacular fish have in recent years invaded Florida’s reefs, raising concerns of scientists and anglers alike.  Armed with highly venomous spines, these fish have few predators with the exception of spear-fishermen.  In fact, the FWC now allows divers to harvest any number of lionfish without a recreational fishing license so long as they are doing so with pole spears, Hawaiian slings, or dip nets.  Lionfish season is open, and lionfish are an excellent choice for dinner.

You’ll have to catch your own lionfish or beg them from a friend.  My friends at Gainesville’s Northwest Seafood found me a few as by-catch from a deep-water grouper trip and gave me a lesson in cleaning them.  I recommend getting some heavy gloves, sharpening your favorite knife, and being extra-careful to not get stuck by one of the fish’s venomous spines.    Also, unless you know the origin of the fish you’re preparing, question your source regarding whether or not it came from a tropical or sub-tropical reef that’s known to hold fish with the ciguatera toxin.  Ciguatera isn’t fun and is certainly something to avoid.  If you’re not sure about the origin of your filets, consider using any other firm white fish for this recipe.

Chef Michael’s Lionfish Ambassador

Michael Ledwith, of Chef Michael’s Restaurant in Islamorada, claims lionfish taste much like hogfish, and that’s why you’ll sometimes find them on his menu.  His “Lionfish Ambassador” recipe makes those small tasty lionfish filets fit for any table.

4 to 6 fresh lionfish filets

1 tbs. butter

1 tbs. canola oil

1 tbs. chopped shallot

1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

2 tbs. capers

I tbs. key lime juice

1 cup good Chardonnay wine

¼ cup heavy cream

1 tbs. chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley

½ cup fresh crab meat

In a large non-stick skillet, bring butter and oil to medium-high heat.  Season lionfish filets with salt and freshly ground pepper, then add to oil, cooking for about 3 minutes.  Remove fish from skillet and reserve on a plate.  Add shallots to hot skillet; cook for about one minute.  Add mushrooms and capers; cook about 2 minutes.  Add the wine and lime juice and simmer on medium heat for about 4 minutes.  Finally, add the cream, crab meat, parsley and the fish filets and simmer until the fish is fork-tender.

This recipe serves 4 and is best accompanied by grilled vegetables and a glass of whatever Chardonnay is left over from the recipe.

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