Making The Old -- and The Good -- New Again

By James Parrish Coleman -- a/k/a Jimbo Coleman

A later edition. Early Editions had a white

spine, and ads for long extinct local business.


Gulf Coast Gourmet was compiled by my late mother, Jane S. Coleman, in the early 1960s. The book was a fund raiser for the Foley Woman's Club.

The illustrations are the original work of a very talented artist named Marion Dyer. The book has been in print for many, many years; but has the simple fault of assuming you know about Gulf seafood and really know how to cook. I'll cook through the book (and my childhood), explain how Jane Coleman cooked, and tell a lot of family stories in the process. I like to cook. I will share what I have, and hope you like it. That's the spirit of this blog. Bon Appetit.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Fish, Snapper St. John

There are hundreds of fine recipes for snapper or some similar fish baked in a tomato, onion and garlic mix. This recipe is a little more tame than most, because it omits many of the strongly flavored elements of the common Mediterranian dishes. That may be good or bad, depending on your prejudices for or against olives, capers, whole cloves of garlic, rosemary and other delightful things. (Add them if you want to -- who's going to know?) This dish is easy to prepare. The most difficult part is finding the fish. (See the previous post.)




Ingredients


1 3-lb Red Snapper (See Previous Post)
2 Strips Bacon
1 can medium peeled tomatoes
1 onion sliced in rings
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 lemon, sliced
2 T water
1 T butter
1 dash cayenne

Everything you need, all lined up! The simplicity of
Snapper St. John depends on the quality of the ingredients.
The difference in great and merely good depends on your
success at the fish market and grocery store.
Nice clear eye. Lots of salt and pepper, too.
1 3-lb snapper. Getting the right fish is the main event here. Remember the GFRs and you'll be fine. (Forgotten already? See last week's posting.)  

3 Slices Bacon -- Ever wonder why some bacon is cheap and others expensive? Is there a difference in the bacon at the Piggly Wiggly and the expensive stuff you can get online?  Sure. The expensive stuff is thicker and leaner, and it costs a lot more. Here, use something tasty, but no need to go overboard on the lean part! We're looking for fat here, baby!
For some expensive stuff see:
http://www.baconfreak.com/

 1 can medium peeled tomatoes. Other than the fish, this ingredient drives the taste of the dish. Canned tomatoes are great (and handy). The better the tomato flavor, the better this dish will be. If you have your own -- homegrown -- tomatoes, use them. (I have a gardener on staff here. She is also the mother of my children, kind of like Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings.) 

1 onion sliced in rings Use a strong rather than sweet onion.

1 small clove garlic, crushed One small clove! Are you kidding? No, in 1961 garlic was not the king of flavor it is now. You won't have a pronounced garlic flavor, but you can taste it if you think about it.

 1 lemon, sliced This is not only a garnish, but a flavoring for the fish. Use a big thin-skinned lemon if you can find it. 

2 T water right out of the clear mountain stream behind your house -- or the tap.

1 T butter Mooo. 

dash cayenne Use more than a dash if you like, but make sure the pepper is fresh. Spices in the rack that Aunt Nell gave you  to celebrate the Clinton inauguration are no good anymore -- trash them, cute little bottles and all. 

St. John's & Anthony Zoghby The mention of St. John (snapper or other-wise) always brings to mind a great man and mentor of my youth. Fr. Anthony Zoghby, shown young and beardless, was the pastor of St.John's Catholic Church, Magnolia Springs, Ala. He organized theater groups wherever he went and kept me in shows and out of trouble for those pesky teen years. I should also say St. John's parish had -- and has --some of the greatest seafood cooks around. The people in the parish are descended from some of the oldest settlers in the area, and have a wonderful heritage of good seafood cookery. Blanche Weeks, who commanded her own very good seafood restaurant in Magnolia Springs for years, was one of that community's stars. If she were around today, she'd be on Food-TV, putting Bobby Flay in his place, seafood-wise.






Concerning the head of the fish -- If you don't like serving the fish with the head on -- you should be sentenced to a month of eating nothing but Bunny Bread, Fanta lemon-lime soda and spray cheese (the yellowish orange stuff that squirts out of the little can).

No squealing or saying "ick" or "yuck," either. To do so is on a par with stacking dishes at the table.

Snapper St. John is good served with Baldwin County new potatoes (OK, Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana  spuds are good, too) and grilled or roasted eggplant.

Eggplant is particularly appropriate, to honor the Lebanese heritage of my late friend, Fr. Anthony Zogby.

He would say "yuck" at a fish with its head on. After all, he did not like seafood gumbo (more than a venial sin at St. John's Parish.) He called it "soup with little dead animals floating in it." It is a wonder that the women of the parish did not kill him and burn his body on a pyre of shrimp shells and crab-bodies.

Ironically, his cousin, Paul Zoghby, is pastor of the church next door to my office. When I ask him about the  real Fr. Zhogby, he just smiles -- they never knew one another.

The Big Dude, Ignatius Loyola
HMC* & Me
My friendship with Father Zoghby aside, I was not reared Catholic. My earliest memory of knowing that there were Catholics was of attending a football game against Catholic High School of Pensacola, Fla. I was a young child, holding the hand of my long-suffering father. The mighty Foley Lions of the 1960s must have been playing them at homecoming, because the stands were packed. We had to sit on the visitors side. I remember grumbling that I didn't want to sit "with a bunch of Catholics."

 But, oh, what a wonderful thing love can be!

 After being unfazed by a Jesuit education at Loyola in New Orleans and numerous forays involving young Catholic coeds, I met Frances Barrett at a small newspaper in Louisiana. I brought her home to meet the parents in Alabama. She was very pretty, and had a Louisiana accent that charmed my mother. The fact that she was, ahem ... Catholic ... didn't come up. A few months later she gave me a set of books, "Catholicism," by Richard P. McBrien. In short order I married Frances, read the books, converted to HMC/OTC and have been a Mackerel Snapper ever since. I took my first Communion in Bon Secour, Ala., from Father Zoghby. He was very proud. "When I saw you," he later told Frances, "I knew I had him!" I never had the heart to tell Father Zoghby that if Frances had been Buddhist, I'd have been talking about karma that night, rather than confessing sins. So much for the OTC (One True Church).
*Holy Mother Church, of course.

Let's cook this fish ...


Technique
I've got to say, there is not a lot of hard cooking here.The techniques are much easier than finding the red snapper!
Place fish, rubbed with salt and pepper, on strips of bacon in roasting pan. Easy. Season this fish well, inside and out. If you want to make this a little more of a tribute to Father Zoghby, put a little rosemary in the cavity. Salt and pepper the fish well. Use kosher salt. It's just nicer. The bacon is a smart way to add some flavor and keep the fish from sticking to the pan.
Add water and cover. Get out the heavy-duty aluminum foil. Don't use cheap tin foil. It is an abomination unto the Lord. (We call it tin foil here, like ice box -- silly, but that's how we roll.) Put the 2 tablespoons of water in the pan and cover tightly.

Let the fish steam, tightly covered, in a 400-degree preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes. This makes a real difference. The fish is cooking in the hot oven, without drying out the goodies that are to come later. Don't try to skip this step.
                                                      
                                                          Saute Tomatoes, onions and garlic in butter.
As the guy on TV says, "happy days". What a great combo. Butter, garlic onions and tomatoes. Of course, you are making a simple kind of sauce for the fish. Use the right kind of gear, a saute pan.

 If you don't have a saute pan, get one. Go to the restaurant supply store (Sam's if you must) and get two all-aluminum saute pans. They last forever, and can go in the oven (take the little plastic handle cover off). The curved side of the pan makes the food jump (Saut is French for "jump"). When you move the pan back and forth -- not up and down -- the food "jumps" up. You catch it and do it again. That's how you evenly coat the food. Besides, it looks really cool.

If you don't know how to do this, go in the kitchen early on a Saturday morning and practice with a pan full of dried beans. If you aren't good at doing this at first, practice outside!


Banana Leaves? Word is, all Swells and heavy hitters are 

having an exclusive seafood dinner this weekend at Gulf Shores.

It will be a celebration and media event (cooked up by BP*, no doubt)
to show all the world that the oil spill is just a distant memory.
Look Ma! No oil! Snapper is on the menu --wrapped in banana leaves.
Now there is an authentic Gulf Coast dish. Fish steamed in banana
leaves. Promoting Gulf Coast Seafood? Don't you believe it. Promoting
the idea of small damages, limited liability and no environmental
impact is BPs game here-- and a game it surely is.
*British Petroleum, the fine folks who brought you the nation of Iran and the
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill a year ago.
Add tomato juice and cayenne. The liquid and pepper are the rest of the sauce.






Bring to a boil. The idea here is to make a sauce with the liquid, onions and tomatoes. If you have a stove like the one pictured (with 16,000 BTU --British Thermal Units--  gas burners) it is quick and easy to get a good sauce -- and right now too! If you have a household gas range, you've got about  9,000 BTUs to work with.

If you have an electric range, at which point I will call you out as a pansy or a person who didn't pick the stove you have to cook on, you have about 8,500 BTUs on the big eye.

 Jane Coleman cooked on an electric stove. I didn't use gas until I went away to college (in New Orleans, no less) and cooked on a 20-inch gas range. I've never cooked on an electric stove since, and unless I get drafted into the Navy to cook on a submarine, I don't intend to ever cook on electric again.



My sister loves her electric stove (or pretends to). She says it is so easy to clean. If you want clean, buy a washing machine. If you want to cook -- get a stove.
                                                                            


Pour this over fish. That's the ticket! See how the sauce is thick and cooked and good? 
This same kind of simple pan sauce is good over pasta and a lot of other things. This is the kind of quick simple cooking that makes this fun!                                                 

Garnish with lemon slices and let cook uncovered for about 30 minutes in a slow oven,350 F. The lemon cooking on the fish gives a nice flavor. Just promise that you will not over cook this fish. The times given are plenty. Learn how to poke and prod a little to make sure the fish is done. As soon as no flesh is translucent, take it out! Remember, the fish keeps cooking after you get it from the heat. If it is well and truly done in the oven, it will be overcooked by the time anyone gets a chance to eat it! 


Serves 6 Or 8 or as many as you can feed on the size fish you have. I always garnish with parsley under the gills, with the obligatory lemon peel eye patch. You can use a little black olive and achieve a variety of comic effects. Nothing like a fish looking at you. You may even scare your children's beaus, if you dare. (See last week's post)




Next Week, The Best Recipe in The Book. Seafood Gumbo


Plain Text Recipe



Place fish, rubbed with salt and pepper, on strips of bacon in roasting pan. Easy. Season this fish well, inside and out. If you want to make this a little more of a tribute to Father Zoghby, put a little rosemary in the cavity. Salt and pepper the fish well. Use Kosher salt. Its just nicer. The bacon is a smart way to add some flavor and keep the fish from sticking to the pan.
Add water and cover. Get out the heavy duty aluminum foil. (We call it tin-foil here, like ice-box -- silly, but that's how we roll.) Put the 2 tablespoons of water in the pan and cover tightly.
Let the fish steam, tightly covered, in 400 degree preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes. This makes a real difference. The fish is cooking in the hot oven, without drying out the goodies that are to come later. Don't try to skip this step.

Saute Tomatoes, onions and garlic in butter.



As the guy on TV says, "happy days". What a great combo. Butter, garlic onions and tomatoes. Of course, you are making a simple kind of sauce for the fish. Use the right kind of gear, a saute pan. 

 If you don't have a saute pan, get one. Go to the restaurant supply store (Sam's if you must) and get two all aluminum saute pans. They later forever, and can go in the oven (take the little plastic handle cover off). The curved side of the pan makes the food jump (Saut is french for "jump"). When you move the pan back and forth -- not up and down -- the food "jumps" up. You catch it and do it again. That's how you evenly coat the food. Besides, it looks really cool.



If you don't know how to do this, go in the kitchen early on a Saturday morning and practice with a pan full of dried beans. If you aren't good at doing this at first, practice outside!



Add tomato juice and cayenne. The liquid and pepper are the rest of the sauce. 

Bring to a boil. The idea here is to make a sauce with the liquid, onions and tomatoes. If you have a stove like the one pictured (with 16,000 BTU --British Thermal Units--  gas burners) it is quick and easy to get a good sauce -- and right now too! If you have a household gas range you've got about  9,000 BTUs to work with. 
If you have an electric range, at which point I will call you out as a pansy or a person who didn't pick the stove you have to cook on,   you have about 8,500 BTUs on the big eye.

 Jane Coleman cooked on an electric stove. I didn't use gas until I went away to college (in New Orleans, no less) and cooked on a 20-inch gas range. I've never cooked on an electric stove since, and unless I get drafted into the Navy to cook on a submarine I don't intend to ever cook on electric again.
My sister loves her electric stove (or pretends to). She says it is so easy to clean. If you want clean, buy a washing machine. If you want to cook -- get a stove. 

Pour this over fish. That's the ticket! See how the sauce is thick and cooked and good? 
This same kind of simple pan sauce is good over pasta and a lot of other things. This is the kind of quick simple cooking that makes this fun!                                                

Garnish with lemon slices and let cook uncovered for about 30 minutes in a slow oven,350 F. The lemon cooking on the fish gives a nice flavor. Just promise that you will not over cook this fish. The times given are plenty. Learn how to poke and prod a little to make sure the fish is done. As soon as no flesh is translucent, take it out! Remember, the fish keeps cooking after you get it from the heat. If it is well and truly done in the oven it will be overcooked by the time anyone gets a chance to eat it! 

Serves 6 Or 8 or as many as you can feed on the size fish you have. I always garnish with parsley under the gills, with the obligatory lemon peel eye patch. You can use a little black olive and achieve a variety of comic effects. Nothing like a fish looking at you. 



1 comment:

  1. Guess who just copied your snapper recipe and is going to try to cook it. Sorry, I'm cooking your fish!

    ReplyDelete