9.04.2016

Fish CAN Be a Wonderful Dish...Here's How!

   While reading one of the fishy forums I participate in, I stumbled across a thread talking about seafood recipes and was amazed at the number of people who wrote posts claiming they don't like fish. More amazing to me is the fact that a large number of people who actually go out and fish will never eat fish.  
  Well, I grew up eating wonderful fish, so I couldn't understand why so many other people couldn't seem to stand the stuff. This surprised me so much that I did some research surfing food blogs, fishing blogs and articles, and Face Book groups and found that it's true...many people can't stand fish and won't eat it. 
   After reading all these posts and opinions, I finally developed a theory about why it was so disgusting to them and so, am writing this post hoping it will help people understand that it doesn't have to be that way...fresh...really and truly fresh seafood, cooked properly, will melt in their mouth.
   Peg came down from western New York State hating seafood...except for shrimp and scallops. One day I told her we were going to a seafood store to get some fish. In her mind, she didn't plan on eating any of it once it was cooked, but went along with me to buy it. After a few stops at several markets on sundry other errands, we parked in front of the seafood store and were talking on the way in when suddenly, inside,  she stopped and looked around in amazement, "Where are we...in the fish market??"
   I told her, "Yep, we are, why do you seem so shocked?"
   "But...but...in New York State you can't even get within fifteen feet of the store without feeling the need to retch or at least gag. Even in the nice big supermarkets it smells horrible. I smell nothing in here." She went over to one of the counters and peered in, taking sniffs to prove to herself there really was fish in the place. Still unconvinced, "This is real? Not fake seafood?"
    The people behind the counter probably thought she'd been dropped from outer space. Never seen fish?
    I've since been to her neck of the woods and she's right; even in a fancy, upscale New York restaurant on the beautiful and clear Hudson River I was grandly and proudly presented with a plate of rotten fish. I couldn't eat it. The waiter looked alarmed and I hated to hurt his feelings, so I must of said something like I wasn't as hungry as I thought I had been.
  She's right about the grocery stores and seafood markets...I just couldn't believe they were selling the stinking stuff and worse, people were lined up to buy it!
   Down here in South Louisiana, Peggy learned another lesson the hard way while I was away on the boat. One day a friendly young man and his sociable girlfriend drove into our neighborhood selling shrimp. They came to the door and cheerfully asked if she'd like to buy some. "Come on out here and see what we got for ya."
  I'd taken Peggy down to the gulf coast where fisherman were selling their shrimp right off their boats, caught that morning. She'd never had fresh shrimp before, so she was thrilled.
  Now when this guy and his girlfriend sitting in our driveway said, "Come see these beauties, caught just this morning," Peggy remembered what I had told her, "always sniff it first before you buy it." So, she told the guy, "I need to smell it first," which she did. She bought about five pounds to surprise me when I got home.
  While the guy got busy putting Peg's shrimp in a plastic grocery sack for her, his girlfriend engaged her in all kinds of distracting conversation, then they left.
   Peg immediately put them into freezer zip lock bags and froze them all. Two weeks later when I got home and thawed out a pound or two of that shrimp....oh Lord, help us...it stunk so bad of strong...STRONG iodine. That means they were old and essentially rotted. I thought that since they were here, bless Peg's heart, I'd doctor them all up in an etouffee so maybe the ton of onions and Cajun spices would cover the iodine smell and taste. Nope! It was still so strong we couldn't eat it. Even the dogs looked up at us in disgust that we'd dared to offer it to them and slunk outside for a breath of fresh air.
  I told her that, that was an old trick. They let you smell the fresh fish then distract you while they grab fish outa the 'other' bucket. Ya gotta watch out for people.
  Alright...so if you are of a mindset now that maybe some of these reasons why you, too, (like Peg and so many others) don't like fish, well then, let me give you some pointers that might help. Try them and see if you don't find that you actually are liking some fish. It is so healthy for you.
                            How to Buy Seafood:
     I was very surprised to find that people often buy spoiled fish. The secret to buying good fresh fish is to use your nose. If you aren't allowed to sniff the fish don't buy it. Buy fresh fish. When you take a deep sniff all you should smell
is the ocean. A subtle "sea" smell and no fish stink. Seafood should be displayed in an open container on or in ice or in ice water slurry with a scale for customers to scoop out what they want to buy. 
  Again, if ya can smell 'fish' don't buy it. If the market reeks from the parking lot, don't go in. Smelling fishy smells from the road is never a good thing. 
   I'm thinking that the reason most people who hate it have been eating bad fish. Like I said, it happens in restaurants, too.  Sorry to say this, but most seafood is past 'fresh' long before it even gets to a restaurant. 
    Please, Dear Reader...please try fish again, except please buy fresh fish and seafood this time. Once you get your hands on some fresh seafood: any fish, shrimp, crawfish...anything, you will notice a big change from what you had been trying to choke down in the past.
   So, with all that being said, what follows is my hands-down favorite way to cook any seafood. I also have a 'killer' deep-fried crunchy battered recipe that I'll tell ya about later on another post, but this particular one I'm cooking now is one of the most requested dishes that I cook, which is a combination of all the fresh seafood I can get my hands on to stick in the same pot. This is how I cook my Court-bouillon (pronounced "Coo-bee-yaw").  It's a traditional dish that's spelled many different ways; "coubion" is often seen, but no matter how you spell it, this is my favorite way to cook seafood.
  This time we had some red fish fillets caught fresh by our neighbors, Jude and Sonia, from across the street. Trust me, if ya stuck your nose to these fillets they would smell fresh, clean and like the beach.
I took these fillets and cut them into bite sized chunks and seasoned it with our own Cajun seasoning, a li'l hot sauce and a splash of our own Meyer lemon juice and parked it in the fridge. The seasoning helps toughen the pieces by drawing out some of the moisture...makes it "meatier".
Next I turned this: (My friend, Smokin' Sam's Andouille)
into this:
Then I dumped it into our favorite pot with a li'l seasoning to brown.
The pot had about a tablespoon of veggie oil in it. While the onions began to soften, I turned this:
into this:
Next, the tomatoes (not drained) and the "mushies" (drained)  went into the pot.
I let 'em cook and cook and cook some more...slowly reducing the liquid in the pot,
'til all the juice was cooked out.
At that point I added a half cup or so of ketchup (my trick) and then I put in a drizzle of my "secret ingredient" that makes this pot extra special with a hint of hard-to-define yumminess.
  After adding the peppers, garlic, ketchup and syrup, I brought it up to a light bubble and let it simmer for a half hour more, stirring often, then brought the last ingredient to the party.
Now, normally we have this dish over a bed of rice, but we also love it over pasta. Actually, the sauce is very similar to my Cajun Chicken Spaghetti which my family and friends love so much. Today, we decided to make this with Gluten Free pasta.
 When combined with the finished sauce,
it makes an amazing meal which has 'magically' converted many a fish hater into a seafood lover. 
So, I challenge you to get you some FRESH fish. Either catch it yourself or buy it FRESH from the market. Remember, if you can smell fish from the street, I'd avoid that market. A terrific way is to have it given to you by a good neighbor with a boat on the back of his truck with an ice chest full of fresh fish that smells like the ocean or lake where he and his family had fun catching these beauties. We thank God for our neighbors and His bounty that they share with us.   
Right now, all we're fishin' for is compliments. Try our recipe and let us know what you think. Best wishes for your fish dishes!!
 
 
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