Being in Florida on vacation, and camping out right next to the Inter Coastal Waterway, makes me drool for fish and seafood of every kind. Some sea-borne meals I’ve had in the last few weeks have been both different (for a Northerner like me) and delicious. While I don’t have specific recipes, I do have the general make-it-yourself ideas I’d like to share.
First is Branzino, a sea bass-type Mediterranean fish I’ve heard about on the Food Network many times but never had access to in New England. Branzino is generally smaller than Chilean sea bass, and a bit more delicate to the taste. When we found some down here in a favorite Italian market, we bought a whole fish, about two pounds, and had the fishmonger take off the head.
We rinsed the fish, salt and peppered the inside and lined it with lemon slices and a pinch of chopped garlic and fresh thyme, then closed it up. We heated the outdoor grill, then prepared the outside of the fish with more salt and pepper and brushed it with olive oil. Since cooking pans are in short supply in our home away from home, I doubled a large sheet of aluminum foil, crimping up the edges all around, dotted the bottom with a few more drops of olive oil and placed the fish on the foil.
We grilled the fish about 8-9 minutes, then gingerly turned it over to get the other side as crispy as the first side. After 3-4 minutes the fish seemed done. Linguine with pesto made a great side dish, and the reviews were in the rave category. I’ve begun to realize that whole fish keeps its flavor and moistness better than filets, and I’m keeping on that path for now. The two of us knocked off the entire branzino and have been watching the markets to find more before we leave the Sunshine State.
Last night’s dinner at Calypso, one of the top but not fancy “Caribbean” restaurants in our town, rates a positive comment, too. My choice was a good chunk of dolphin fish, a dense, delicious white fish stuffed with a crabmeat dressing perfectly seasoned and baked to perfect doneness. Sometimes baked fish can become dry in the oven, but this one had an unctuous, juicy quality in every bite. If I can get dolphin fish back home, I’ll definitely try making it in my own kitchen. Bluefish most likely would make a good substitute, and maybe Red Snapper, too.
Finally a delectable seafood-pasta dish we enjoyed at le Bistro, one of Gordon Ramsay’s well-known do-overs on the Kitchen Nightmare tv show, deserves mention. First of all, I don’t how this new-French style bistro could have needed improvement when it’s so good as it is. The “Seafood Decadence” dish is unforgettable: a lobster tail, mussels and several huge shrimp composed over a heap of cappelini pasta in a creamy, chopped tomato sauce.
Fortunately, I was served a small soup spoon with my meal, because I needed it to scoop up every drop of that superb sauce. That sauce was in fact my dessert, and I can taste it still, in the recesses of my sensory mind. I’ll try to recreate it at home, but doubt I can compare to the English, French-trained chef back in his miraculous kitchen.
Florida has delighted me in the seafood department this year--good news for a Pisces like me.
Eat your fish, get smarter.
Next Week: Some thoughts on writing and writers, and why we are the way we are.