Alabama Fish Fry

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Watermelon Margaritas

Makes 8 drinks Lime wedge, for salting rims Margarita salt or kosher salt 8 cups cubed watermelon, seeds removed 1 cups tequila 1 cups simple syrup (recipe follows) 1 cup fresh lime juice cup fresh lemon juice Lime wedges, for garnish Lemon twists, for garnish 1. Rub a lime wedge around the rims of 8 12-ounce margarita glasses. Dip the rims into a saucer filled with salt to coat the edges; chill. 2. Puree watermelon in a food processor until smooth. Strain, and measure out 1? cups. In a large pitcher, combine the tequila, simple syrup, and lime, lemon and watermelon juices. Add ice; stir until well chilled. Garnish glasses with a lime wedge and a lemon twist, and serve drinks immediately. Simple Syrup Makes about 21/4 cups 2 cups sugar 1 cup water Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Boil for 30 seconds, and remove from the heat. Let cool, then refrigerate.
Photo: John Kernick

Sesame Brittle (shown with Cheese Platter with Local Honey and Pecans

Makes about 3 dozen 2- to 3-inch pieces cup whole unsalted almonds 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds 1/4 cup plus teaspoon white sesame seeds cup sugar 1 tablespoons flour 1/4 teaspoon salt cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted 3 tablespoons whole milk 1 tablespoon light corn syrup 1. Place whole almonds in a food processor, and process until about the same size as the sesame seeds. Combine almonds, black and white sesame seeds, sugar, flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add melted butter, milk and corn syrup; stir until well combined. Chill until firm, at least 4 hours. 2. Preheat the oven to 300?. Remove the brittle mixture from refrigerator, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut parchment paper into 2 pieces large enough to fit inside a 17-by-11-inch jelly-roll pan. Place the sheets on a work surface, and divide the batter evenly on top. Place an ad-ditional piece of parchment paper over each portion, and roll out until the mixture is about the same size as the paper. Transfer the sheets to jelly-roll pans, and carefully remove and discard the top parchment. (If some of the mixture sticks, use a rubber spatula to scrape it off.) 3. Bake, one pan at a time, for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, until the brittle is golden brown and bubbling at the edges. Allow to cool completely in the pan. Break into 2- to 3-inch jagged pieces, and serve.
Photo: John Kernick

Grilled Vegetables

Serves 8 6 jumbo asparagus spears, peeled and blanched until tender 1 large red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, sliced into 1 inch strips 1 large yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, sliced into 1 inch strips 2 large Vidalia onions, cut into 1-inch-thick slices 3 Japanese eggplants, sliced diagonally into -inch-thick and 4-inch-long pieces 3 baby bok choys, halved length-wise and blanched until tender 2 large fennel bulbs, sliced into 1-inch-thick pieces cup olive oil 1 tablespoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper cup finely sliced fresh basil 1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat, about 400?. Toss the vegetables and fennel with olive oil until well coated. Season with the salt and pepper. 2. Grill vegetables and fennel, in batches, until tender and slightly charred on both sides (2 to 3 minutes per side for asparagus, bell peppers and bok choy; 3 to 4 minutes per side for fennel, eggplant and onions). Arrange the vegetables and fennel on a serving platter, and sprinkle with the sliced basil. Serve hot.
Photo: John Kernick

Old-Fashioned Fish Fry

Serves 8 1 cup buttermilk 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper 4 pounds bream, crappie or flounder fillets, cut into 1-by-3-inch strips 1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal 1 cup yellow corn flour or cornstarch 1 cup all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons kosher salt 1 quart peanut oil, for frying Rémoulade (recipe follows) 1. Whisk the buttermilk, 1? teaspoons of the cayenne and 1? teaspoons of the pepper. Cover the fish with the mixture, and chill for 1 hour. 2. Stir together the cornmeal, corn flour and all-purpose flour, salt, the remaining cayenne and black pepper. Dredge fillets until evenly coated, allowing them to stand in the cornmeal for several minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet (do not shake off excess cornmeal); chill until ready to fry. 3. Preheat oil in a deep fryer to 365?. Place breaded fish in the oil, a few at a time. Fry for 2 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer fish to paper towels. Serve hot with rémoulade. Rémoulade Makes about 2 cups 1 cups mayonnaise 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and finely diced 1 jalapeño pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and finely diced 1 hard-cooked egg, peeled and grated 2 tablespoons peeled and grated cooked potato 1 tablespoon drained and chopped capers 1 teaspoons drained and chopped cornichons 1/4 cup sliced scallions 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley ? teaspoon cayenne pepper Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste Whisk mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and vinegar in a bowl until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Chill a half hour before serving.
Photo: John Kernick

Hush Puppies

Makes about 3 dozen 1 cups finely ground yellow cornmeal cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoons salt 1 cup shaved fresh corn kernels ¾ cup minced scallions 1 cups buttermilk 1 large egg Peanut oil, for frying 1. Pour peanut oil to a depth of 3 inches in a deep fryer or large, heavy-bottom saucepot, and preheat to 375?. 2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the corn and scallions. In another bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg. Add the mixture to the cornmeal, and stir just until it is moistened. 3. Place rounded tablespoonfuls of the batter into the oil, and fry 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Turn halfway through. Remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. These are great with the rémoulade.
Photo: John Kernick

Hot and Hot Tomato Salad

Serves 8 6 large beefsteak tomatoes 2 large yellow tomatoes 2 large rainbow tomatoes pint sweet cherry tomatoes Balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows) Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1 smoked ham hock 1 large onion, peeled and quartered 1 sprig fresh thyme 4 ounces fresh, shelled lima beans 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil 3 ears yellow corn, husked 30 small fried okra (recipe follows) 6 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked until crisp Chive dressing (recipe follows) 6 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into thin strips 1. Core and slice the large tomatoes 1/4 inch thick; combine with the cherry tomatoes, and drizzle with half the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper, and cover; set aside to marinate. 2. Combine the ham hock, onion, thyme and beans in a medium stockpot with enough cold water to cover the beans. Bring to a simmer, and cook until just tender, about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, drain. Discard the ham hock, ?onion and thyme. Set aside the beans. 3. Shave the kernels off the corncobs. Heat the peanut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add kernels, and cook until tender, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and let cool slightly. Toss the corn with ?the lima beans and 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Set aside. 4. Arrange tomatoes and bean-and-corn mixture on a platter with okra around the sides and bacon on top. Drizzle dressing over the top and strew with basil. Serve at room temperature. Fried Okra 4 cups vegetable oil 30 pieces whole okra 1/4 cup buttermilk 1/4 cup corn flour or cornstarch 1/4 cup cornmeal 1/4 cup all-purpose flour Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1. In a fryer, heat the oil to 350?. Trim and discard okra stems, and toss the pods well with the buttermilk. 2. Combine cornmeal and flours in a bowl. Season with teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Drain the okra; toss in the cornmeal mixture. Shake off excess. Fry in batches for 2 to 3 min-utes, or until golden. With a slotted spoon, remove from oil, and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to serve. Chive Dressing Makes about 1?1/4 cups 1 small clove garlic, finely minced 1 small bunch chives, thinly sliced 1 egg yolk 1 small lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons) 1 cup olive oil 1/4 cup crème fraîche Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste Place garlic and chives in a small bowl. Add yolk and lemon juice. Add olive oil in a thin, steady stream, while vigorously whisking. Whisk in the crème fraîche. Add a drop or two of water if dressing is too thick. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use. Balsamic Vinaigrette Makes about 2 cups cup extra-virgin olive oil cup regular olive oil cup thinly sliced chives cup thinly sliced green onions 1 cup balsamic vinegar Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste Whisk together all ingredients, and set aside. Whisk again before serving.
Photo: John Kernick

Peach Cobbler

Serves 8 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided 1 cup granulated sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 pinch salt cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced cup buttermilk 8 cups peeled and sliced ripe peaches and their juices 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 3 tablespoons brown sugar (preferably turbinado) Vanilla ice cream 1. Preheat the oven to 350?. Combine 1 cup of the flour, cup of the granulated sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the diced butter; cut into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk; stir until a soft dough forms. Set aside. 2. Combine the peaches and their juices, 3 tablespoons of flour, cup sugar, lemon juice, zest and nutmeg in a large bowl; toss until combined. 3. Spoon about 1 cup of the peach mixture into each of 8 6- or 8-ounce ramekins; top with dollops of dough. Sprinkle with a generous teaspoon of brown sugar. Place ramekins on a baking sheet; bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until topping is golden brown. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream. Find more inspiration in a Creole Feast, here.
Photo: John Kernick

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