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How To Make Baby Flounder with Mushrooms and Pecans

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BABY FLOUNDER WITH MUSHROOMS AND PECANS

WHILE THE REST OF THE COUNTRY SEEMS TO BE embracing every exotic and trendy fish from Arctic char to Moroccan tuna to Chilean sea bass, flounder is what Southerners still perceive as the ideal fish to simply broil with lemon and butter, stuff with all sorts of shellfish, flavored rice, and vegetables, or gently sauté with a creamy wine sauce. This particular dish, which might also be made with small red snapper, sole, and even trout fillets, can be prepared literally in a matter
of minutes.

What’s equally appealing is that it lends itself to endless experimentation with whatever
ingredients you have in the kitchen—chopped ripe tomatoes or leeks, minced garlic or chile peppers, other nuts and wild mushrooms, fresh broccoli florets or diced asparagus, raisins or capers, and all sorts of herbs and spices. Frankly, I’ve never understood how food snobs can consider flounder a boring fish, given its amazing versatility.

Recipes

6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) butter
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mushrooms
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 small fresh flounder fillets (about 1⁄2 pound
each), skinned
1 cup dry white wine
Pinch of ground fennel
1⁄4 cup heavy cream
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

In a small skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over moderate heat. Add the mushrooms, cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, and remove from the heat. On a plate, combine the flour and salt and pepper and mix till well blended. Dredge the fish fillets
lightly in the mixture and place on another plate. In a large skillet, melt the remaining butter over moderate heat, add the floured fillets, and sauté 2 minutes on one side. Turn the fillets over, scatter the mushrooms on top and around the sides, and cook 2 minutes longer. Add the wine and fennel, cook 1 minute longer, then pour on the cream, stirring gently but taking care not to break up the fish.

Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet, and let the fish rest in the cooking liquid several minutes. To serve, transfer the fillets to a heated serving platter, reduce the sauce over moderately high heat till just thickened, about 3 minutes, pour the mushrooms and sauce over the fish, and scatter pecans over the top. Serve hot.

How To Make Creamed Shad Roe

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CREAMED SHAD ROE PREPARATION

MUCH PRIZED BY THE EARLY INDIANS AND PILGRIMS For its sweet (if terribly bony) flesh and the delectable roe, the large American shad that migrated each spring from the Atlantic to spawn in eastern fresh-water rivers was so popular by the nineteenth century that it was fished almost to extinction (and, later, almost driven out of certain waters by industrial pollution).
Today, the shad have rebounded, and while, in my experience, it’s rare to find the annoyingly bony fish itself except in the best seafood markets of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia, Southerners relish the roe and have come up with numerous creative ways to prepare it: roasted with wild sorrel, stuffed into other fish, poached with various
vegetables, and creamed, as in this rather elegant recipe retrieved from an old Annapolis, Maryland, church cookbook. (Marylanders, by the way, have also devised a way to bake or steam shad five or six hours, till the bones literally disintegrate.)

Recipes

4 slices bacon
2 pairs shad roe (about 1 pound)
2 cups water
1⁄2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons butter
3 scallions (part of green tops included), minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons dry sherry

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Tabasco sauce to taste, 4 pieces toast 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves for garnish In a large,

heavy skillet, fry the bacon over moderate heat till crisp, drain on paper towels, crumble, and reserve. Drain the grease from the skillet and let the skillet cool.
Arrange the shad roe in the skillet and add the water, milk, lemon juice, and bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer the roe to a plate and reserve the liquid in the pan, removing the bay leaf.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, add the scallions, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Sprinkle on the flour and whisk till well blended, about 1 minute longer. Increase the heat to moderate, add the reserved cooking liquid, and whisk rapidly till thickened and smooth. Add the cream, sherry, salt and pepper, and Tabasco and stir till well blended. Cut the roe into bite-size pieces, add to the sauce, and stir till well heated. To serve, place a piece of toast on individual plates, spoon equal amounts of creamed roe on the toast, and garnish the tops with the bacon and parsley.

How To Make Key West Conch Fritters

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KEY WEST CONCH FRITTERS

 PRONOUNCED “CONK,” THE SMALL MOLLUSK IN THE large pink shell called conch has been associated with and revered in Key West, Florida, since the midnineteenth century. Most often used to make sapid chowders and crispy fritters, conch must be tenderized by being either pounded or finely chopped, to overcome its natural toughness, but few who’ve ever wandered down Duval Street in Key West and stopped in places like Sloppy Joe’s or Bo’s Fish Wagon for a few slightly chewy but wonderful conch fritters are aware of the care that goes into producing this unique delicacy.

All sorts of exotic sauces come with the fritters, but I’ve yet to find one that can equal a few squeezes of fresh lime juice. Although you might find fresh conch in Chinese or Italian markets during the summer, you’re probably better off buying the canned or frozen product, since fresh conch is highly perishable after only a couple of days in the refrigerator.

Recipes

1⁄2 pound canned or frozen conch meat (if fresh,
foot and orange fin removed)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 small onion, minced
1⁄2 small green bell pepper, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 large egg, beaten

1 cup whole milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Vegetable oil for frying
Lime wedges for garnish

Dice the conch finely, place in a food processor, and grind till finely minced. Transfer to a

glass bowl, add the lime juice, and toss well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, salt and pepper, cayenne pepper, egg, and milk to the minced conch, stir till well blended, and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and stir till well blended. Gradually add to the conch mixture, stir till a thick batter forms, cover, and refrigerate 1 hour. To fry the fritters, heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over moderately high heat and, in batches, drop tablespoons of the conch batter into the oil. Turning frequently, fry till golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in the oven till all the fritters are fried. Serve immediately with lime wedges to be squeezed over the fritters.

How To Make Jekyll Island Fish Cakes

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JEKYLL ISLAND FISH CAKES

I WAS IN BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA, TO FOLLOW UP ON the town’s claim to be the home of Brunswick stew (dubious), to view the putative “original pot” mounted at the Welcome Center (impressive), and to sample as many bowls of stew as possible (good and bad), when somebody began raving about the fish cakes served at
some family-style restaurant over on Jekyll Island.

Perched in a faded Naugahyde booth, I was indeed stunned by the light, crispy, flavor-packed cakes, and when I hopped up and asked the hefty woman cook back in the small kitchen what her secret was, she simply muttered, “Mixed fish and clean oil.” What she meant by mixed fish was a combination of lean and fat fish for the right flavor and texture—a principle that had never dawned on me but that made a lot of sense. Sea bass and salmon make a perfect union for these cakes, but you could also combine halibut and bluefish or grouper and trout.

Recipes

1 pound sea bass fillets
1⁄2 pound salmon fillets
1 whole lemon, cut in half and seeded
3 peppercorns
1⁄2 bay leaf
3 scallions (part of green tops included), minced
1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 large egg, beaten
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 1⁄2 cup dry bread crumbs 1⁄3 cup vegetable oil

Lemon wedges, for garnish Arrange the fish fillets in a large nonreactive skillet, add enough water to barely cover them, squeeze the lemon halves into the water, and add the peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring water to a low simmer, cover, and cook till the fish flakes, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the fish to a plate, let cool completely, remove any skin, then flake well with a fork. Place the flaked fish in a mixing bowl, add all remaining ingredients except the vegetable oil and lemon wedges, and mix gently till the ingredients just hold together. Form the mixture into 4 to 6 oval cakes and place on a plate. In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat till a morsel of bread tossed in the pan sizzles, add the fish cakes, and cook till golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with the lemon wedges to be squeezed over the
fish cakes.

How To Make Baked Tuna-Stuffed Bell Peppers

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BAKED TUNA-STUFFED BELL PAPPERS

BAKED STUFFED BELL PEPPERS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A staple of the Southern diet, the perfect medium for all sorts of ground meats, chopped leftover poultry and seafood, and, for health fanatics, diced fresh vegetables and mushrooms. Much as I love canned albacore tuna in salads or by itself, just about the only way I’ll prepare it hot is when it’s mixed with other ingredients, stuffed into green, red, or yellow bell peppers, and baked with a golden cheese topping.

Actually, any cooked, flaked, leftover oily fish, such as mackerel, bluefish, or fresh
tuna, makes a wonderful stuffing for these peppers (or large poblano chile peppers), but if you’re curious about what Southerners might point to on a diner menu or whip up for close friends on a cold night, do try the canned tuna (solid white only).

4 large green bell peppers, 1 cup raw long-grain rice, cooked according to package directions One 6-ounce can solid white tuna packed in oil, drained 1 small onion, finely chopped One 10-ounce package frozen corn kernels, thawed 1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh mushrooms.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Paprika to taste, 1 ripe tomato, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped 1⁄2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese 3 cups hot water
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cut a wide circle around the stems of the peppers, lift off the lids, and discard. Scoop out and discard the seeds and membranes, trim the bottoms of the peppers so they will stand upright, and arrange in a 2-quart baking dish.Tuna-Stuffed Bell Peppers

In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice, tuna, onion, corn, and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and paprika, and mix till well blended. Stuff equal amounts of the mixture into the peppers, spoon equal amounts of the chopped tomato over the mixture, and sprinkle equal amounts of cheese over the tops. Pour the hot water around the peppers and bake till the tops are golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Carefully lift the peppers out of the dish with a slotted spoon, place on a large plate, and serve piping hot.

How To Make Salmon Croquettes

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SALMON CROQUETTES

 SALMON CROQUETTES HAVE BEEN A SOUTHERN STAPLE at bridge and charity luncheons, on country club buffets, and even at fancy dinner parties for as long as I can remember. When they’re made with the best ingredients and handled with care, nothing is more delicious; when they contain cheap canned salmon and mashed potatoes and are overcooked to the consistency of tennis balls, they’re inedible. So long as it’s top-grade
pink or red salmon (which can be quite expensive), the canned product can be used, but once you’ve had these subtly flavored, delicately mixed, correctly sautéed ovals made with tender poached or grilled fresh salmon, there can be no substitute.

For a nice variation, you might add a little chopped fresh dill or tarragon to the mixture in place of the pickle. Traditionally, the croquettes are served with a bowl of tartar sauce on the side, coleslaw, and piping hot hush puppies. 

Recipes

2 cups finely flaked poached or grilled salmon
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped sweet pickle
1 tablespoon finely chopped capers

1⁄2 cup mayonnaise, 1 to 11⁄2 cups fresh bread crumbs, 1⁄4 cup chicken broth. Paprika to taste Fine dry bread crumbs, for dredging, 6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) butterbrazilian

In a large mixing bowl, combine the salmon, lemon juice, dry mustard, parsley, chives, pickle, capers, and mayonnaise and toss till well blended. Add enough of the fresh bread crumbs to tighten the mixture, then add enough chicken broth to produce a firm but moist consistency.
Using your hands, form the mixture into 4 or 5 oval croquettes and brush both sides of each with a little chicken broth. Sprinkle each with paprika and roll lightly in the dry bread crumbs. In a large, heavy skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat, add the croquettes, and cook till golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm till ready to serve.

How To Make Aunt Toots’s Oyster and Almond Pie

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AUNT TOOTS’S OYSTERS AND ALMONDS PIE

THIS RECIPE HAS BEEN IN MY GEORGIA–NORTH Carolina family for at least three generations. As a child, nothing thrilled me more than to learn that my great aunt Toots would be serving this pie at one of her Sunday afternoon “suppers.” Be warned: even though the pie bakes at a slow 300°F, you must watch it carefully after about 25 minutes to make sure it remains moist and the oysters don’t overcook.

Recipes

1⁄2 cup slivered almonds
2 cups crushed soda crackers
1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
1 quart freshly shucked oysters, liquor reserved
1⁄2 cup dry sherry
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) butter, cut into small
pieces
1 cup half-and-half Preheat the oven to 300°F.
To toast the almonds, spread them evenly on a baking sheet and bake, stirring several times, till slightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside. In a bowl, combine the crackers, nutmeg, and salt and cayenne pepper and mix well. In another bowl, mix together the reserved oyster liquor, sherry, and Worcestershire.oysters

In a 2-quart baking dish, arrange alternate layers of seasoned crackers and oysters,
drizzling the oyster liquor mixture over each layer, dotting each layer with pieces of butter, and finishing with a layer of crackers dotted with butter.
Pour the half-and-half around the sides and bake 20 minutes. Scatter the reserved almonds over the top, baste with a little of the cooking liquid, and bake till the top is nicely browned but the pie is still moist, about 10 minutes longer. Serve hot.

How To Make Deviled Oysters with Mustard Sauce

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DEVILED OYSTERS WITH MUSTARD SAUCE

IT’S NO SECRET THAT SOUTHERNERS EAT MAYONNAISE On practically everything but chocolate, but one unique trait of Southern cookery that often goes unnoticed by those outside the region is the use of mayonnaise in place of milk and cream products in numerous toppings for baked dishes—large casseroles included.

 tNo doubt his would make some cringe, but the truth is that mayonnaise not only binds other topping ingredients like nothing else but it also produces a nice glaze on dishes, such as these deviled oysters. Typically, the ramekins would be served with small country ham biscuits at a genteel luncheon.

Recipes

2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 strips bacon
1⁄2 pound fresh mushrooms, chopped
2 dozen fresh oysters, shucked and drained
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese Preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, mix till well blended, and set aside.
In a large skillet, fry the bacon over moderate heat till crisp, drain on paper towels, and crumble.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the grease, add the mushrooms to the pan, and cook over moderate heat, stirring, till they release most of their moisture, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Butter the bottom and sides of 6 individual 4-ounce ramekins and place 4 oysters in each. Add equal amounts of mushrooms to each ramekin, then spoon on equal amounts of the mayonnaise mixture. Add the crumbled bacon to each, sprinkle each with cheese, and bake till slightly puffy and the cheese begins to brown, about 12 minutes. Serve piping hot.

How To Make Baked Oysters with Mustard Greens and Bacon

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BAKED OYSTERS WITH MUSTARDGREENS BACON

HIGHLANDS BAR & GRILL IN BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, has been a virtual school of modern Southern cookery ever since the early 1990s, and not a week passes that owner/chef Frank Stitt doesn’t create yet another innovative dish displaying Southern and Mediterranean techniques applied to the ingredients of his native Alabama. There’s a baby flounder stuffed with shrimp and crabmeat, and a grilled pompano with roasted pumpkin and orange hollandaise sauce, but his Apalachicola oysters baked with a topping of peppery mustard greens and bacon is a wonder of contrasting flavors. Fresh, young, winter mustard greens are not that easy to find, even in parts of the South. If they are available, buy only those with crisp young leaves with a
glossary oysterdeep green color. A good substitute for the greens in this recipe is a combination of fresh spinach and
watercress. And don’t balk at all the bacon grease; that’s what gives the dish much of its true Southern flavor.

Recipes

1⁄4 pound bacon, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 small hot red chile pepper, seeded and finely
chopped
4 cups washed, drained, finely chopped, loosely
packed mustard greens
1 lemon, lightly zested, seeded, and juiced
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 2 dozen fresh oysters on the half shell
1 cup coarse white bread crumbs Preheat the oven to 500°F.

In a large skillet, fry the bacon over moderate heat till almost crisp, drain on paper towels, and finely crumble. Add the onion to the skillet, reduce the heat to low, and stir till very soft but not browned, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and chile pepper and stir 2 minutes longer. Add the mustard greens, lemon zest and juice, bacon, and butter, toss well about 1 minute, and season with salt and pepper.
Place a small mound of greens on each oyster and sprinkle bread crumbs on top of each. Arrange the oysters on a heavy baking sheet and bake till the crumbs are golden and the oysters heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

How To make Fried Oysters

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Fried Oysters

FRIED OYSTERS

I ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT THE GREATEST FRIED oysters on earth were found in New Orleans—until, that is, somebody took me to Wintzell’s in Mobile, Alabama, and I ordered a jumbo oyster loaf. Wintzell’s, alas, is no more, but at least I had the chance to learn how they fried their glorious oysters—one secret being to always wait for the fat to heat back up to the right temperature before frying another batch. For these oysters, buy the largest grade available, and, for heaven’s sake, do not commit the cardinal sin of overcooking them—not one second more than 2
minutes.

The oysters can be served with tartar sauce, mayonnaise, or horseradish cocktail sauce—or, in typical Gulf Coast fashion, can be stuffed into a baguette sliced lengthwise and spread with mayonnaise
and pickle relish.

Fried Oysters souce

Recipes

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1⁄2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
4 dozen fresh oysters, shucked and drained
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted and poured
into a bowl
Peanut oil for frying
On a plate, combine the cornmeal, bread crumbs,black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt and mix well. Dip the oysters briefly into the butter, dredge lightly in the cornmeal mixture, and place on a large platter.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat about 1-inch of oil to 375°F on a thermometer or till a morsel of bread tossed into the pan sizzles quickly. Drop the oysters, a few at a time, into the oil, fry them no more than 2 minutes or till golden brown, turning once, and drain on paper towels. (To prevent sogginess, always wait briefly between batches for the fat to heat back
up to the right temperature.) Serve the oysters piping hot in a cloth-lined basket.