Something fishy here
Famartin, Wikimedia Commons
Tender fish fillets with a crispy fried coating are great for sandwiches or as a dinner entree.
Usually, my food columns stem from some sort of inspiration. Sometimes that comes from holidays, at other times it might originate from discovering a pile of old favorite recipes I thought were lost, or from the seasons of the year, when certain fruits and vegetables are fresh and abundant. But this time the inspiration came from two dreams I had the night before this writing.
The first dream was pretty weird: I was entered in a gymkhana game, where I had a partner on foot who was supposed to catch a fish with his hands and place it in a bucket of water. Then, I was supposed to rope the bucket while on my horse, and drag it to a water trough where my partner would release the fish. I remember asking the judges just how I was supposed to drag a bucket of water across the arena without spilling it. (Told you it was weird).
The other dream was normal, and it was about the annual Bass Lake Fishing Derby, where entrants do their best to catch tagged trout. Some of the trout are worth thousands of dollars. So, no wonder I thought about including some fish recipes today.
I am very fond of fish, especially if it is fresh, so I have a lot of good recipes I have tried. Might as well cast a few out right here and see if anyone bites.
I hope you are enjoying the Spring weather so far, and dealing with all the pollen.
Blueberry balsamic salmon
This recipe comes from a little cookbook that was published years ago by the Raley’s supermarket folks. It works well with trout, too.
1/2 cup frozen blueberries (I always use more)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 salmon steaks or fillets (about 6 ounces each)
Oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Combine blueberries, vinegar, honey and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over very low heat for about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, rinse salmon and pat dry. Brush lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper.
3. Grill for about 5 minutes per side over medium heat. When salmon is cooked to your liking, remove from grill and drizzle with blueberry glaze. Makes 2 servings. Note: I just use a large frying pan, lightly coated with oil, rather than using a grill, but it is your choice.
Ervie’s campfire trout
My dad’s nickname was Ervie, even though his real name was Erwin. When we went camping in the high country, he always grilled the trout we caught for dinner. We never had a recipe, but I will do my best to describe his method. Bear with me, though, as this is the first time this recipe has ever been in written form. We have always agreed that the smaller fish taste the best, for some reason. (Maybe because they are more likely to be native trout rather than hatchery plants?)
Freshly caught whole trout, from about 6 inches long up to 16 inches, cleaned and wiped dry
Sprigs of fresh rosemary
Strips of raw bacon
Salt and pepper
Hinged grill baskets made for cooking fish
1. To prepare trout (with or without heads): Coat fish lightly with some oil, so they won’t stick to the grill. This is more important for the side not covered in bacon. Season lightly with salt and pepper, inside and out. To be able to fit the trout into the grill basket, larger ones may need the heads removed. The smaller trout will fit, heads and all, but some people prefer to have the heads removed. We always left the tails on, because when seasoned and crisped, they actually make for a good treat. Lay each fish on its side in the grill basket.
2. Cover each fish with 1 strip of raw bacon, lengthwise. Close and secure the grill basket lid.
3. In a small saucepan or bowl, mix some olive oil and wine vinegar as if for a tossed salad. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Tie a handful of rosemary sprigs together near the stem ends, forming a brush that you can hold in your hands.
4. When the campfire has reduced to glowing coals (no big flames licking up), place the grill baskets on the campfire grate, bacon side up. The bacon fat will start to melt and drizzle down over the fish.
5. Stir the vinegar and oil mixture with the rosemary brush, and baste the tops of the trout with the mixture. You can baste as the fish cook, several times. When one side has cooked (not sure how many minutes, but probably at least 5, depending on the size of the trout), flip the grill basket over and cook the other side, also basting as before.
6. When the bacon is done, the trout are probably done, too. We do not let the bacon get crunchy, but we like it still a little bit flexible. Remove from barbecue grate and open the grill basket carefully. Remove trout to a platter and serve.
Oven-baked Creole catfish fillets
Recipe follows if you want to make your own Creole seasoning.
1 pound catfish fillets (4 pieces)
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely ground cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
2 medium eggs (I use large and they work fine)
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon Louisiana-type hot sauce (such as Crystal, Trappey’s or Frank’s)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (Grey Poupon is good)
1. Line a baking sheet that has shallow sides with parchment paper. Place a metal cooling rack on top of the parchment paper. The cooling rack will raise the catfish off the bottom of the baking sheet, and help them to crisp evenly.
2. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour and the Creole seasoning.
3. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, hot sauce and Dijon mustard. Place the bread crumbs into another bowl (I like to use a shallow pie pan).
4. Take one of the pieces of catfish, and dredge it in the cornmeal/flour mixture. Make sure that the fillet is evenly covered.
5. Drop it into the buttermilk/egg mixture, and allow the flour to absorb the liquid, about 15 seconds per side. Using tongs works great for this step, to keep your fingers from getting too goopy.
6. Place the fillet into the bread crumbs, and thoroughly cover. Use your hands to scoop up the breadcrumbs and press them into the fish.
7. Place the finished catfish fillet on the rack inside the baking sheet, and repeat for the other fillets. Allow the fillets to rest for about 15 minutes. This helps the coating stick to the fish during baking. During the 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 425.
8. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the coating begins to turn nicely brown. Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon white pepper
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until evenly mixed.
2. Store in airtight container.
This is another one of those recipes that is rather vague, just because it is forgiving and nothing needs to be exact. It is just a description of how my family cooks panfish, such as bluegill or crappie. Once again, this is the first time it has ever been in written form. We like to fillet the fish, even though it is time consuming. It does save you from having to remove the scales, remove innards, cut off heads and tails and deal with all the bones.
Fresh-caught bluegills and/or crappie
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Dash garlic powder
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk (or enough to dip however many floured fish fillets you have)
Oil for pan frying
Fresh lemons, cut into wedges
1. Prepare the fish so they are boneless and skinless.
2. In a pie pan or shallow bowl, mix flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder. The amount you need will depend on how many fish you will be cooking. You will be double-dipping into the flour mixture, so allow for that.
3. In another pie pan or bowl, whisk the egg and milk together.
4. While the oil is heating in a frying pan, dredge each fish fillet in the seasoned flour mixture. Dip each fillet into the milk and egg mixture, then once again into the flour. You can set the fillets on a wire rack so the coating will set for a few minutes.
5. When the fillets are all coated, fry in batches in the hot pan, turning when one side is lightly browned. When both sides are browned and fish are done, remove to a large platter lined with paper towels. Continue until all fish are done. When serving, offer guests some lemon wedges to go along with the fish. (Leftover fillets make great fillings for sandwiches the next day.)