My best friend, Tatty, is a piece of work. We’ve known each other since high school when we spent six weeks in Europe on a school-sponsored trip and just tore the place up. I don’t think we realized that there was no drinking age in Europe when we got there, but as soon as we figured it out we took full advantage of the situation.
Tatty has varied interests. She owns her own lawn-care and landscaping business. She’s a licensed fishing boat captain. And she’s a hunter. She’s all the things girls aren’t supposed to be. I just love that about her.
So last night she called to give me an update on her life in Astatula, Florida. Astatula, I think, has one stop light. To those people who think Florida’s not in the South, let me set you straight. She was telling me about this meat ‘n three I just have to go to when I visit her. It’s called the Speckled Butter Bean and it’s right in the middle of a flea market! She told me that she saw one woman in there the other day who was so large she was sitting on two chairs! People should know their limits, don’t you think? And then Tatty was telling me about the salad bar with three kinds of potato salad, one of which has bacon and cheese in it. Only in the South do you have salad bars with potato salad.
So the biggest shock of the night was when Tatty told me she’s been appointed to the city council! I can tell you that her mother would have never predicted that. But Astatula’s having some situations that are common in small Southern towns. I think you know what I’m saying here. Tatty said that some of the public in the audience objected to putting a girl on the city council. That was the wrong thing to say in front of Tatty. And you know what? She’s now in charge of the police department! Hell hath no fury.
So, this is what Tatty looks like. She’s had blond hair down to her butt as long as I’ve known her. She wears it in a braid. It’s her signature look. This picture was taken in Mobile a few years ago when the Chicks cooked a barbecue contest. Tatty cooked the fish for one of the side contests and came in third!
I know I’ve been going on the last few posts without giving you a recipe but tonight I’m giving you one of Tatty’s best. It’s actually out of the Gasparilla Cookbook, published by the Junior League of Tampa. Tatty’s mom was the editor. Gasparilla is this ridiculous spectacle that occurs in Tampa every year when the city’s most important men get dressed up in pirate costumes, consume mass quantities of alcohol and float into Tampa Bay on a pirate ship. Fortunately, the food is good or otherwise it would be a complete waste.
So here’s a recipe Tatty’s cooked often from the Gasparilla Cookbook.
Fish Russian Style
Olive oil to cover
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 pound butter, browned (if you don’t know how to brown butter, Google it)
Pepperidge Farm bread crumbs, rolled fine
3 hard-boiled eggs
Pimiento and parsley to garnish
Fillet three “good size” trout (about 1 pound each) or use 12 small fillets. Marinate one hour in olive oil to cover, placing fillets in a large oven-proof dish in a single layer. Drain off oil. Lightly sprinkle fillets with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add browned butter. Bake ten minutes at 400 degrees. Turn fillets, sprinkle generously with bread crumbs and bake ten minutes more, basting occasionally. Garnish with grated hard-boiled egg, finely chopped pimiento and minced parsley. Serve in the baking dish, with lemon wedges.
I just have one more thing to say about Florida and the South and then I’m done. There are a couple of very fine recipes for pimiento cheese sandwiches and onion sandwiches in the cookbook. That is completely Southern. I’m just saying.