Make the Most of your Fresh Fish

DATE: August 23, 2013

Talking about fishing charters in my last post had me craving fish all week! I completely lucked out when a friend called and told me her husband had just come back from a fishing trip and brought home way too much Grouper. She probably thought I was going crazy when I nearly yelled in her ear “let me have it!” However, she definitely understood once I told her about my days-long yen.

This particular friend of mine is the eternal receiver of too much fish. Her husband frequently takes his clients on charters and comes home on an almost weekly basis with the freshest, most amazing fish. The only problem is that her husband seems to forget that they are a family of three and not thirteen. She and I have learned to combat this issue (because the charters help him with clients and the man can’t help but be good at fishing) by learning to cook fish in every way fathomable. I will now share that knowledge with all of you. It may come in handy next weekend when you decide you want something a little different than just burgers and hot dogs.

In general, you will find fish prepared in one of the below ways:

  • Raw
  • Smoked
  • Ceviche
  • Seared
  • Poached
  • Baked
  • Grilled
  • Blackened
  • Fried

I am not sure many fish can be (meaning should be) done all ways. What my friend and I have found, and a basic rule we stick to is: if you eat it raw you don’t fry it, and if you fry it you don’t eat it raw.

Let’s use my Grouper as an example. Grouper, for those not familiar with it, is a large fish with white meat that cuts into thick filets and holds up very well while cooking. It does not have an overtly ‘fishy” flavor and thus lends itself to a variety of seasoning styles based on the preference of the chef and diners.

It was Grouper that I used to first introduce my own children to the world of fish, which can sometimes be an intimidating protein for kids. Here is a simple, kid friendly recipe that is great for lunches, parties or even Labor Day!

Grouper Bites:

(Can also be prepared using similar fish such as Mahi Mahi, Talapia, etc)

2 lbs fresh Grouper filets

1 egg

Fresh lemon juice

Panko bread crumbs

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

*Understand that this recipe can be modified an endless number of ways but this is how I like to fry my fish.

Start by adding enough olive oil to a large frying pan to fully cover the bottom and let the oil heat to medium. While the pan and oil are warming up, cut your Grouper to approximately 2” chunks (think large chicken nugget size).

In a bowl, mix your egg with a healthy squirt of lemon juice. This will give that fresh citrus taste you typically get from squirting the lemon after a fish dish has been prepared without ruining the crunch later.

Pat dry your Grouper pieces, removing any excess moisture, then dredge through egg and lemon mixture. On a separate plate or shallow dish, pour a thin layer of Panko (this is also where you can add any of your favorite seasonings) and begin to coat your Grouper pieces a few at a time. Be careful not to try to bread them all at once or they will end up rubbing the breading off one another. Set each breaded Grouper aside until all are finished. Add additional Panko to the plate as needed. It is better to have to add as you go than dump half the container and have too much because once you’ve rolled raw fish and egg in it, it can’t go back in the box.

By now your oil should be ready to go. You can test this by adding a few pieces of the breadcrumbs into the pan and see if it sizzles right away. If so, you are ready to start cooking! Add your Grouper bites to the pan, making sure you don’t over crowd it. You should have enough room in the pan to get a spatula or tongs around the pieces when you need to flip them.

Cook each side until golden brown. Timing will vary based on how thick your filet was but it shouldn’t be more than a few minutes per side.

Once you remove them from the pan, rest them on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce or just with a little salt and pepper.


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