Monday, April 7, 2008

Fantastic Saturday

Well… what a culinary day we had unexpectedly on Saturday. Some days I go into the kitchen and nothing goes right. I break stuff as I’m loading the dishwasher, food experiments turn to green goo, flavors don’t match and spices fall from the cupboard into the cooking soup pot. That was NOT the case yesterday and what makes it even better was that I didn’t expect to cook at all.

It all began with a get together at the park up the street. I planned on being out of the house most of the day. We grilled some sausages and fresh corn. Yummy lunch. My 12 year old son, Evan, however met some new friends and they went to a little inlet to wet a hook (colloquial for fishing). In short order, he returns with 2 beautiful keeper Redfish. He was very proud and excited They have to be 18 inches to keep. One was just over that and the other was 20”. Now I’ve never prepared Redfish but I have enjoyed its flavor before. It’s a stronger flavor and not everyone loves it. Most game fishermen that I know however, find it to be one of the coveted prizes of the brackish river mouths and saltwater flats just off shore here in the Tampa Bay waters.

I learned something new. Redfish are a pain. They don’t fillet well. I must have poked my fingers on the spines enough times that a close inspection of my finger tips would reveal something akin to a diabetic hypochondriac checking their blood sugar too many times a day. After screwing up the first fish and recovering what I thought was too little meat (also unsure where fish blood ended and my own began), I changed direction. Those thoroughly washed fillets are still in the freezer.

The second fish would not be a repeat of the first. I decided this beast would be whole roasted. So after a couple of band-aids, this one, I gutted. While a far more disgusting procedure, this yielded a beautiful fish. I then went on a veggie hunt. I cut up the following: Bell peppers, Onions, Garlic, Radishes, Carrots, Celery and Lemons. Not only did I stuff the cavity but I basically made the fish invisible beneath this medley with a huge bunch of thyme, salt and pepper, a couple of pats of butter and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil as well. I then wrapped this entirely in aluminum foil and put it on the grill. Now if I’d have paid any mind to the weather report, I would have recalled we were expecting storms. Within minutes it was pouring but thanks to the foil, my fish was unaffected. So into a 350 degree oven it went for about 45 minutes.

I must say, I was not prepared for what came out. It was amazing. I discarded most of the veggies and transferred the fish and its associated broth to a serving bowl. I placed some of the vegetables around for garnish. I then grabbed some crusty bread and a couple of plates for Evan and I. We sat down and dug in to this fantastic meal enjoying tender and perfectly flavored Redfish “family style”, both digging our forks into the beautiful meat. The broth was savored by lapping it up with the bread. The earthiness of the vegetables combines with a flavor of the sea made for a spectacular accoutrement. Evan and I loved it, and it was thanks to his salty skills that we succeeded.

Now you might think that’s the end of the food story for Saturday. In fact it is not. You see, before I knew we were having fish, I had taken a whole chicken out and I already had a plan. The reason I had so many fresh vegetables available for the fish was because I was planning on using them for the chicken. Ahhhh… chicken soup you might say. No, although that had crossed me mind.

If you read my very first post, I believe I made reference to the fact that my Big ole flat panel, HD satellite connected, 7000 station receiving, premium package tweaked to the max TV is solely tuned to the Food Network (except football season, of course). Well, some time ago I was watching Paula Dean from her Savannah, GA kitchen and she was describing how she got started in the food business. She started a door to door catering business and one of her dished was her famous “Chicken Salad”. Now I don’t recall if I ever saw the actual chicken salad recipe but how she prepared her chicken caught my attention. Since I had thought the only way to prepare chicken salad was by opening a can of store bought chicken, I was taken aback by her method. She boiled a chicken with some aromatics. Stellar thought!!!!! So, while I’d love to take credit for my pot of chicken with the aforementioned veggies as well as a big handful of peppercorns that boiled away as I was preparing the fish, I cannot. It was Paula.

Once the Chicken came out (and after an hour, it was fall off the bone tender), it needed to rest for a bit before working with it because it was too darned hot. That’s when I worked on getting the fish on the grill and subsequently into the oven. Once the fish was roasting away, I began to pull the chicken. I discarded the bones, skin and anything that didn’t look like tender pieces of meat and by hand I pulled it into small bite size morsels. Then with no fanfare of fancy ingredients, I added chopped onion and celery and mixed everything with mayo, mustard, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper.

What I ended up with was superb. No magic or expensive ingredients; just a standard chicken salad. I’d never tasted chicken salad made with fresh chicken. Just the processed stuff or maybe once with some leftovers, but this… WOW!!!! I don’t think I’ll ever buy canned chicken again. It also makes me want to try fresh Tuna.

Alright enough rambling for now. I’m on a plane at this moment at about 38,000 ft headed to Toronto, so I had little better to do. I haven’t blogged yet about any travel adventures and I have many to discuss from a “foodie” point of view so that will probably be the topic of my next posting. I gotta write about the food finds in Hong Kong from a couple of weeks ago.

Oh and by the way, feel free to Email me at

CYA Next time.


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