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.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Monarchs of the Seas

The Pompano  & The Oyster

These are two great and simple dishes. One, the grilled or broiled pompano, is simplicity itself. Rub a fish with butter, salt and nutmeg; grill and eat. (The nutmeg is a minor -- and surprisingly good-- touch.)

The other, oysters heated up in cream and butter with a little crumbled-up cracker to hold all that dairy-born richness next to a gently cooked oyster. 

Like Leading a Large Country, Grilling a Small Fish Is Easy.......

Master grill man Laozi, whose work
may have Included the admonition,
"Grilling A Small Fish Is Like Ruling A
Large Kingdom" --- whatever that
is supposed to mean.

.... all it takes is complete devotion to the task and maniacal attention to detail.

If the Chinese text of the Tao Te Ching really did tell us that grilling a small fish and running a large kingdom had something in common, every cook will immediately identify the common thread.

Attention to detail. Although Confucius did not say, "Man who cooks beans in oven can read many books at kitchen table," he could have. He could also have said, "Man who is not attentive to grilling will spoil many groceries."

Man (or woman) who grills fish damned well better pay attention to what he (or she) is doing or the fish will be like a lot of the world's kingdoms: mere memories of a beautiful thing.

Grilling a fish is simple. It is so simple that a little inattention to detail will cause you to ruin the dish. Pay attention to what you are doing here.

This is a shot of the outdoor kitchen we
constructed after seeing a layout in Southern
Living magazine.  No, it's just a picture of
the most practical outdoor grill out there. Load
it up with real charcoal and cook. Simple and
lasts forever. Portable, too.

I admit it. I like to go to cooking stores. I feel a little dowdy when I visit Williams-Sonoma, but the gadgets are neat, if mostly useless and overwhelming.

There are also a lot of women in these stores.

 I like that.

 However, the ladies working there always steer me toward the grill section. "We have a large selection of grilling tools," she'll say, "and our Chef Bubba's 'Burn Your Ass To Cinders' special bar-b-que rub is on sale for only $49.95 per six-ounce jar!" If I tell her I want to look at the Kitchen-Aid accessories, she'll think I'm shopping for Mother's Day. If I ask about the French Duralex glassware, she'll think I'm gay. So I pretend interest in Bubba's $299.99 Smoke House Grillin' Tool Set and then ask for a ball of kitchen twine.

It's hard to get away sometimes.

Cooking on a grill is simple. It is easy to do poorly and hard to do well. You don't need a lot of gear; you need to pay attention.

Grilling is a good and simple way to cook. Ditch the gas oven on wheels that is not really a grill anyway, and try a Lodge cast iron grill. The thing is simple to use and does a great job of grilling. If you want to bake something in an oven -- go inside. They have cold drinks in there, plus air-conditioning and no (or fewer) bugs.

Broiled (Grilled) Pompano

The recipe tells you how to do this in the oven, under the broiler. That will work just fine. James grilled this one on the mighty Lodge grill, but I'll tell you how to grill in the oven as well. The original recipe is in red.

Brush Pompano, inside and out, with melted butter; sprinkle with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Easy. Japanese cooking would have us coat the fins and tail with a paste of salt and water to keep them from burning. I eschew this tradition of Dai Nippon for the Alcoan tradition of putting a little tinfoil on the tail. It does the same thing, and is more efficient.

Place  in oiled pan and broil three inches from flame for 5 minutes on one side. Turn and broil 5 minutes on the other side.
Grilled fish. Cut slits into the side of the fish to
aid in even cooking. The recipe does not specify this,
but you should do it. This will slightly shorten the
cooking time and help the fish cook evenly.
Looks cool too.
If you do this in the oven, you might want to put the fish on a very rigid sheet pan or a cast iron griddle if you have one. A thin pan will buckle under the heat. If you are grilling, let the coals turn red, and heat until you can hold your hand about two inches from the coals for two seconds. (Three seconds if you are a bad ass like I am. If you are G. Gordon Liddy, let someone else test for you.) Make sure the grill is clean and hot. Put the fish on the grill. After 5 minutes, turn the fish. A fish should take about 10 minutes of cooking per inch of thickness at the thickest part. Don't overcook. If in doubt, cook for a shorter period of time. You can put it back on, but you can't save an overcooked grilled fish. Baste with butter ever two minutes. This gives you something to do, and it's fun to watch the butter flame up.  After 4 minutes (5 for a thick pompano), take a long-bladed spatula and turn the fish over. If the grill was really hot when you started, the fish will not stick (ok, only a little). Grill for another four minutes and plate the fish up. If you lack confidence, take a small knife and poke a hole down to the bone to see if the fish is done. The flesh should be barely white. This (top) is the side that will go down on the platter -- covering up your hole, and leaving everyone to marvel at how clever you are in judging the doneness of the fish without taking a look.

If you do not wish to turn fish see broiling instructions for Spanish Mackerel. Take a look at the original 1961 cookbook (on the menu bar at the top of the page) on page 14 of the cookbook and 22 of the page display. The book tells you to finish the dish in the oven. If you need to do this, put the fish away from the broiler in a hot oven (the book does not specify a temperature, but 350 F works fine). Give the fish 8 minutes and test, not 10 or 12. These women had a morbid fear of undercooked fish. You should just try and test.

Pompano upsidedown cake. 

Brush several times during broiling with melted butter. Yum. What could it hurt?

Place on heated platter. Hot fish is good. Heating plates and platters is a good way to combat the normal loss of heat. Keep hot food hot.

Mix and pour over fish, place on heated platter decorate with parsley. Serve. Simple

The Strippers' Secret.....

Nearly Naked Attracts Most Strongly

She is really beautiful, isn't she? A really
nice girl too! What wonders await under
those feathers? What wonders!
The unavailable, the unseen, is the most attractive. My God, what wonders await there! Lighting, presentation, wonder, mystery give the stripper an allure that would instantly vanish in the harsh fluorescent light of the dressing room. The first drag from the non-filtered Camel cigarette -- and the wonder and mystery would go up in smoke. 

A little stagecraft can be a good thing. Surely with strippers, especially with art -- and with oysters too. 

Would she look as good
standing naked in the bath-
room with a cigarette dangling
from her mouth? A little
stagecraft is a good thing.

Usually, I like oysters naked and unadorned. When they are good, there is nothing to improve upon. 

 Oysters can, of course, be accompanied by goodies that complement the oyster itself. Cold, crisp white wine comes to mine. 

So do cream and butter. 

Enjoy her with a little adornment.

I believe the cracker-crumbs are just there to hold the cream and butter -- like worthy stage-hands in cloth caps, they've seen it all-- all, and just do their business as they wait for the next act.


What you need, including the proper kind of kidney shaped
dish. Yo have fresh cracker crumbs, salt, pepper, cayenne and
oysters. The "Whoosh-dis-here" sauce is at the top
Most of the things here are commonplace by now. The oysters should be Standards, Selects at the largest. Idon't like giant oysters in a dish like this. They should fit on a spoon. See Oysters in the menu bar above for more information on sizes and the blessed bivalves themselves.

Here are some things that you should know about the ingredients
1 Tbs, Grated Onion Grate the onion, don't chop it. You want to get a lot of the liquid, and you don't want big hunks of onion in the smooth dish.

2-1/2 Cups Cracker Crumbs Medium Course I like to use saltines, crumble them up in a clean dishtowel and for goodness sakes don't use pre-made cracker crumbs, they will be stale.

1/2 Cup Oyster Liquor If you fail to cook with the liquor in the container of oysters the ghost of my late oyster-loving father will come after you. He never cooked, but he never threw anything out either. This is the liquid that comes with the oysters in the container. If you shuck your own, save the liquid!

Some Assembly Required

Butter the dish before you start.
Start oven at 450F. Butter a shallow 2-quart casserole. Saute grated onion in butter and mix with crackercrumbs and all seasonings

Here, the kidney shaped dish is used, to make a smaller portion for use as a side dish. I like using a smaller dish because the oysters stay hot longer.

 When you cook the onions use your saute pan, and don't let the butter get too hot. You want to gently cook the onions, and then add the cracker crumbs.

Drain Oysters and save a 1/2 cup of the liquor to use later. Put about 1/3 of the crumb mixture in the bottom of the casserole. Cover with 1/2 the oysters, oyster liquor and cream.

This is so easy! Don't be tempted to try to do this way ahead of time. The crumbs would get soggy and you'd have a nasty mess. The crumbs must stay intact here.

 Repeat with the remaining ingredients and sprinkle top with crumbs. Bake 30 minutes and serve piping hot to12.

  An oyster and cream layer cake!!

For a delightful change in this dish add 1/2 cup sharp graded cheese as you layer the oysters, liquor and cream.

. I've got to disagree here. I wonder if this is something that a person who really liked cheese had put in the book. Maybe the Wisconsin Cheese Board got in on the act. I don't think a sharp cheese is good with the oysters. Keep it simple, adorn those oysters with cream and butter and a little seasoning and let it go at that. Save the cheese for something else.

Next Week, Soup and Salad...

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