Category Archives: seafood

Grilled blackened catfish with melon salsa and creamy grits

Hey, ya’ll. The weather’s finally warming up and it’s time to get outside to do some cooking. I have a great recipe (she said modestly) for blackened catfish using my trusty black-iron skillet on the grill. It’s posted on the Char-Broil site and if you would be so kind as to hop over there and take a look I’d be in your debt. Just click the link. Go ahead. Click it. Thank you.

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Filed under seafood, sides

Southern fried fish tacos

I am torn as to the theme of this post. Using things up or stuff I always have on hand. Let’s vote. Who wants using things up? Anyone? Anyone? Well, alrighty then. It’s stuff I always have on hand.

I am very proud to say that of the 14 ingredients in this recipe I only had to buy three – tilapia filets (it’s never wise to always have fish on hand), cilantro and a lime. Everything else was already happily residing in my fridge or pantry. I always keep mayonnaise on hand, but that’s not unusual in the South. We use mayonnaise, preferably Duke’s, on everything. I hope I don’t get diabetes like poor old Paula Deen. I always have sour cream on hand because it’s a key ingredient in my mashed potatoes, which I make about every third day because who doesn’t like mashed potatoes? Cabbage – from the farmer’s market and it keeps for like two years in the fridge. Mexican melting cheese. A must have for quick quesadillas. Buttermilk. Buttermilk? Who keeps buttermilk on hand? Well, do you fry? Do you? Raise your hand. If you fry, you must dredge and if you dredge you must have a liquid vehicle for the flour/cornmeal to adhere to. Thank you. Have buttermilk on hand. Don’t drink it, of course. It’s nasty.

And cornmeal. Not cornmeal flour. Actual cornmeal. I keep mine in the freezer. It’s an old habit born of living in Florida where critters can invade your cornmeal and flour. There’s nothing more disgusting, except for cockroaches.

So I am pretty proud of this recipe. My original intent was to make tradition fish tacos with a beer batter. But then I decided to bread the fish with cornmeal. Good call. And if you are of the (old) school that fish and cheese don’t go together, you are just slap wrong. Just consider lobster mac and cheese. Or a McDonald’s filet o’ fish sandwich. I rest my case. And if you didn’t know that some serious foodies have a thing about fish and cheese then I’m sorry I brought it up.

Southern Fried Fish Tacos

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Juice of one lime

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cumin

Peanut oil

4 tilapia filets

1 cup buttermilk

Cornmeal

Salt

8 small tortillas

2 cups shredded cabbage

2 cups shredded Mexican melting cheese (or any type you like)

Combine the first six ingredients in a small bowl and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Heat about a half inch of peanut oil to 350 degrees or until it bubbles immediately when you put the handle of a wooden spoon in the pan.

Cut the tilapia filets lengthwise to separate the thick and thin portions. Then cut each piece in half widthwise. Place the buttermilk in one bowl and the cornmeal in another. Soak the filets in buttermilk and then dredge in the cornmeal.

Fry the tilapia until golden brown on both sides. Drain on a wire rack and immediately sprinkle with salt. Heat the tortillas wrapped in paper towels in the microwave for about 20 seconds.

Top the tortillas with the fish, cabbage, cheese and sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

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Shrimp scampi

My friend, Mary Ann, goes on a mission from time to time to empty her entire freezer, refrigerator and pantry of all food objects – finding a way to make them into some kind of meal. I admire this. When you look in the freezer and there are unidentifiable objects that you cannot remember putting in the freezer, that is a bad sign.

I have a few. I have bags of Thomas Keller’s beef stock that I made, oh, more than a year ago. It was a torturous process making that damn stock so I value those bags far more than I should. Perhaps I can sell them on E-Bay. I have cornmeal that I got at a BBQ contest in 2009. Does cornmeal go bad in the freezer? I don’t think so, but I don’t really know. I have meatloaf mix that is tinged with those telltale frost crystals that mean it has frost burn. But I am too cheap to throw it out. Plus it would mean thawing the meatloaf out so that I, being extremely cheap, could wash the disposable plastic container it is housed in.

So for the past week or so I’ve been trying to honor Mary Ann and just cook from the ingredients I already have. To be completely honest, I have more ingredients than most. Do you have miso sitting in the refrigerator? Do you even know what it is? How about fish sauce, sumac and za’atar? Oh, I could put some links in here, but I think you need to look them up. The exotic stuff, plus the usual such as pizza dough, an array of vegetables, canned everything, a gross of rice, barley and pasta, frozen chicken, pork tenderloin, ground beef and sausages from West Wind Farms (I will give them a plug because they are the best sausages on the planet and you need to give Ralph and Kimberlie Cole some love and order some) would feed Mark and I for at least a month.

Which led me to shrimp scampi (scampi is really a name for a type of small lobster but, of course, we’ve screwed this up in the United States and what it means here is shrimp in a butter and lemon sauce – we’re so uncivilized). My poor shrimp had been frozen so long that ice crystals were forming on them. So that’s what Mark got tonight. Shrimp scampi with thin spaghetti, of which I have at least 10 boxes because I cannot pass up the “buy one, get one free” sales at the Publix.

If you can find wild American shrimp, please spend the extra few pennies to get them. They’re better for the environment, they’re caught off Southern waters and they sustain our precious fishermen.

Shrimp scampi

1 pound shrimp, preferably wild-caught American

1/3 cup butter

Juice of one lemon

¼ cup dry white wine

3 cloves garlic, chopped

¼ cup minced parsley

Shell and devein shrimp. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the lemon juice, white wine and garlic. Saute garlic for about one minute. Add the shrimp. Salt and pepper to taste. Saute the shrimp for about one minute on each side until they turn pink but are still plump. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serve over buttered pasta.

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Grilled shrimp with Comeback Sauce

O.K., ya’ll. This is brave new territory for me and I need some help.  A few months ago, Char-Broil asked me to blog for them. Actually, they asked me and 29 other food bloggers. But I’m pretty happy with those numbers.

My first blog is up on their site and one of the things they ask is that I not re-post those blogs here. I get that. The idea is to drive traffic to their site, which is quite entertaining I must say. So I am hoping you will wander on over to their site and read about grilled shrimp with Comeback Sauce, which you should because it’s delicious. And if you want to leave a comment on their site, that would help me out, too.

I’m going to blog for Char-Broil every month or so and I’ll send you on over there when I do. But most of my time will still be spent right here. I have to say that for the past few days I’ve been sick as a dog and not at all hungry for anything, which makes food blogging hard. And poor Mark. He’s almost been reduced to eating cat food. So thanks for hanging in and staying tuned.

Now get on over there to the Char-Broil site. Just come back after. OK?

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Food therapy

It would be unseemly to boast about the exceptional quality of the funeral food that arrived at Bunny’s house after the passing of  my father-in-law. That would indicate there is a pecking order in the desirability of funeral food, which there decidedly is not. Just as the pawns lie down with the kings in death, the pimento cheese stands proudly next to the triple chocolate bundt cake in the funeral food hierarchy.

However,  I will say that the ladies of Knoxville displayed a certain level of brilliance. Funeral food begins arriving the second the departed has been carted off to the funeral home, or in this case off to the University of Tennessee Medical Center where Paul donated his body to science. Bunny barely made it back to the house before the knocks at the back door began. Here came beer-braised beef, cheese grits casserole and creamed spinach. Here came the much beloved pimento cheese, chicken salad and apple cake. Here came the curried artichoke rice salad, the cream cheese coffee cake and, in a tour de force, the chocolate chip cookies with both crushed malted milk balls and Ovaltine. It is very difficult for the bereaved to pick at their food in the South.

Bunny does not lose control of her kitchen lightly. And it lasted about one day. Saturday morning, she cracked. “We’re going to have at least 20 people here tonight for supper,” she said. “I am going to make shrimp salad, pasta salad, deviled eggs and tuna salad.” Please keep in mind that there is enough food in the house to feed the entire University of Tennessee football team for the entire season.

Horrified, her sister, Brenda, stepmother Sandra and I stepped in. “You are to do no such thing!” we said. “Just let us take care of everything.” Daggers. If Bunny could send daggers from her eyes directly to our hearts she would have. But we are also wise

Brenda, Bunny and Sandra in food therapy

Southern women and it did not take a second to realize that a food therapy session was about to begin. Bunny needed to make something. She needed some small measure of control. Shrimp salad was control. We stepped back. We couldn’t help ourselves. We started to laugh. Laughter through tears is our favorite emotion. We had a good laugh. A belly cruncher.

Well, just let me say that the knocks at the back door didn’t stop all weekend. And neither did the friends of Paul and Susan who stopped by to offer a hug, lend a shoulder and provide more Kleenex when appropriate. Somehow in the South, funerals can be oddly life affirming. They are gatherings of family and friends, sharing beloved memories of the departed and copious amounts of food.

By Monday, we were on to hamburgers on a grill that Paul had probably not used in five years. Brenda’s husband, Jim, fixed what was broken, got more propane, fired it up in the rain and grilled his heart out. I need to pause here to say that the single best grilled beef tenderloin I have ever eaten came off that grill at the hands of Paul Harbin. It was good to have the grill back in action.

I am fairly certain that I gained five pounds in four days. And I can say with certainty that we ate better than at any four-star restaurant in New York City. A huge part of honoring the dead in the South is to nourish those left behind, both spiritually and literally. A knock at the door. A casserole dish. Funeral food.

Cheese Grits

Cook according to package directions:

1 cup grits, quick (not instant!)

4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

Add:

1 roll garlic cheese (Kraft)

1 stick butter

Stir until melted.

Mix in another bowl:

2 beaten eggs

¼ cup milk

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Red pepper to taste

Add to grits mixture

Put in a 1.5 quart casserole and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

(Note: Inexplicably, Kraft stopped making the garlic cheese rolls, although I include it in the recipe delivered to the back door in case any of you are hoarding it. If you cannot find it, substitute 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons sauteed minced garlic.)

 

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Filed under beef, breads, breakfast, casseroles, cheese, dips, eggs, pasta, salads, seafood, sides, sweets, Uncategorized, veggies

Paul

They say it was a brave man who first ate an oyster. I have known a few brave men in my life. The first was my father, who taught me to eat oysters. The second and third are my husband and son, who love them. The last is Paul Harbin, who taught numbers two and three how to pop that hard shell open with an oyster knife and slide that living, briny wonderful mollusk down their gullets.

Tonight we will speak of oysters. And grief.

Of course, there is much more to a relationship than oysters. But it will suffice for tonight. When Paul and Bunny came into my life, I was a stranger, not even a daughter-in-law yet. No need for them to like or accept me. But they did. Immediately and unconditionally. The oysters started much later when Bunny started hosting Thanksgiving dinners and I insisted on making our family’s recipe for Scalloped Oysters. Bunny hates oysters. But Paul loved them. And eventually I stopped buying the oysters in Brentwood and waited until I got to Knoxville so Paul and I could go buy them together.

Mark, Noah and Paul

So for years, the two of us would set off for The Shrimp Dock to buy our oysters, already shucked. And one year, it occurred to us that we could buy them in the shell and start a new ritual of eating fresh oysters on Thanksgiving. Which we did. We had to take them out on the deck because Bunny was having none of this in her kitchen. Mark would mix up the cocktail sauce fresh. And out we would go, into the cold, with our oysters, sauce and saltine crackers. When Noah was old enough, we invited him outside. I am proud to say he accepted the invitation.

The last time I saw Paul was about three weeks ago. Shrunken and dazed by Alzheimer’s, he sat in his wheelchair at his care facility, gamely trying to down a lunch of a turkey patty and soft cauliflower. Paul was well taken care of and I am not in any way criticizing the cuisine. It was what it was.  But it wasn’t an oyster on the half shell with homemade cocktail sauce.

When we left, I leaned over, kissed him and hugged him hard. “It will be fine,” I told him. “It really will. I love you.” Today, it was fine. Spared the possible years of debilitation and robbed memory, he passed. My father-in-law was many things to many people. He cared for the poor, he adopted Hurricane Katrina refugees, he was a father figure to countless people, many related to him only by love. He was a philanthropist, a proud Optimist and played a mean game of golf. And, in the end, he made light of his disease as best he could. He called until he could no longer remember the number. And I think he knew us all up until the end.

It was a brave man who first ate an oyster. A brave man, indeed.

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Shrimp remoulade with fried green tomatoes

Waste not, want not. That’s the mantra of the Southern cook. Which is how fried green tomatoes came into being. There are two schools of thought on why frying green tomatoes ever got started in the first place. One school has it that tomato vines would become so heavy in the summer that gardeners would pick some of the tomatoes green to lighten up the vine.

I do not subscribe to that theory. I think the more likely scenario was that at the end of the growing season, when the first frost was about to hit, that thrifty gardeners picked the unripe tomatoes rather than letting them freeze on the vine. Some of them could go into relishes or pies. But the best and highest use of a green tomato is to fry it.

Somewhere along the way, fried green tomatoes met up with remoulade sauce. I actually looked up the translation of remoulade and do you know what it is? Tartar sauce! The birthplace of this combination seems to be New Orleans, where Southern meets French and it comes out Cajun. And, of course, adding shrimp just gilds the lily, which is what those people in New Orleans love to do anyway.

If you, like me, hate to buy a bottle of something for just one recipe then you can substitute ketchup for chili sauce in this recipe. But just let me warn you that you’re going to need that chili sauce for the blue moon sandwiches you don’t you’re going to make yet, but which you surely will. Chili sauce keeps for something like 346 years in the icebox, so don’t worry. You’ll use it up.

Shrimp remoulade with fried green tomatoes

1 cup mayonnaise

The juice of ½ large lemon

1 tablespoon chili sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon capers

1 tablespoon parsley, roughly chopped

½ pound raw peeled shrimp

2 large green tomatoes

Whole milk

Cornmeal

Salt and pepper

Vegetable oil

Mix together the first seven ingredients and let sit in the refrigerator. Boil the shrimp until just pink and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Mix the shrimp and remoulade sauce and continue refrigerating.

Slice the tomatoes into 1/3-inch slices. Dip in milk and then in cornmeal. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy skillet and fry tomatoes until golden brown.

Serve shrimp remoulade on top of tomatoes.

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Filed under salads, seafood, sides, Uncategorized, veggies