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.


The Law Of Fish

There is a common problem with food fish everywhere. The names change for the same fish from place to place. Cobia, ling and lemonfish are all the same fish. What is served in every resturant as “Mahi-mahi” (As in, “chef's special is lemon pepper grilled Mahi-mahi, served on a bed of wild rice with kiwi fruit and shaved horseradish”) was and is known on the Gulf Coast as Dolphin (no, not flipper)

If you are confused by fish names, welcome to the club. So, what do you do when the cookbook calls for a fish that you can't find? There are rules:

RULE ONE – So What. Learn how to choose fish based on various types, rather than a specific specie. Mark Bittman's wonderful cookbook “Fish” groups recipies this way, as does the Gulf Coast's own Frank Davis in Frank Davis' Seafood Notebook ISBN: 882893092; Author: Davis, Frank, Pelican Publishing 1985. Davis' book is a wonderful instructional romp though Gulf Seafood. His later books are also great!

RULE TWO - See rule one. Cook what's good and fresh, make the dish fit the ingredient. And use what's fresh! 

The Law Of Fresh

GFR (1) Whole, that's the way to buy
fish. You can tell what you got, and
tell if it's fresh!
GOLDEN FISH RULE -- Learn how to tell a good fish from a bad one, and apply that simple knowledge. Like with everything, there are rules and regulations that apply. Read the statute! There is a law on this! A complete understanding of the GFRs (Golden Fish Rules) can be broken into five parts:
GFR (1) Buy a whole fish. That way you can see what you are getting.

Here's looking at you, kid!
The eyes should be bright!
GFR (2) Look into his eyes. If they are clear he is fresh, if they are cloudy, not so fresh.

GFR (3) Gills -- yes, the red things. If they are bright red, that's good. If they are a dull reddish brown color, that's not good. If they have been removed, you can bet they were not bright red when taken out.

This Pompano's gills and eye are not perfect
and bright. He is a Gulf Coast Gourmet reject!
GFR (4) Skin -- Distract the person at the fish market (point and shout, look at that!!). When she turns away, gently poke the skin with your finger, if the dent does not spring back -- not so fresh. 
                      (a) If you must buy fillets, buy them with the skin on, so you have a fighting chance at figuring out what kind of fish this is.
                       (b) If you buy fillets, and there are "gaps" between the muscular striations in the fish, the fish is not fresh.
Fish can't smell you, and you should not be able to smell them
If it smells "fishy" get something else.
GFR (5) Smell -- This is the most important of the five. Fish should smell like nothing, except maybe cold water. I have never been able to smell the fresh salt air of the ocean or gulf or whatever (like the more poetic among us have). Still, it should not smell like "fish". What we associate with "fish" smell, is usually spoiled fish.