You would think that, living on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I would have boundless access to all kinds of fresh off the boat seafood. That beautiful and succulent jumbo shrimp jump right out of the water and into my frying pan? That sumptuous filets, still quivering and warm from the sea, lie in wait for their chance to bask in my oven? That’s what I would think. But, if you did, you’d be wrong, wrong WRONG!
In reality, there are very few seafood markets in my area where you can consistently buy a variety of super fresh fish. The few that do exist are either pretty far out of my way or have quality control issues. Either way, I usually end up buying my fish and seafood from the supermarket, just like many of you probably do. I think that really sucks!
It wasn’t always this way. I can remember years ago, when there were several little local fish shacks dotting the coastline. They were mostly Mom and Pop establishments where Pop was out early on the fishing boat, scoring the catch while Mom waited to clean, prep and sell the fish in the shop. True, the selection was limited to whatever was abundant in the Gulf of Mexico that day, but you knew where it came from and it was always ridiculously fresh. It was sustainable, local food
before we even knew what that was!
Whenever I do shop for fish, I always try to get the freshest, nicest product I can find. I buy domestic or even local whenever I can. There’s a little dance I do with the fish guy at my local market. I’ll stroll up to the counter and he’ll ask if he can help me. Then, I’ll ask what came in fresh that same day, because you know as well as I do, that by the time a piece of fish has made its way to the supermarket display case, it is already past its prime. The fish guy will rattle off a few names and I’ll squint my eyes (like I’m thinking really hard) and pace up and down along the case, evaluating the fish. Then, I’ll ask him to take a couple of the different fishes out of the case so that I can smell them, after which, I’ll wrinkle my nose and say “Nope.” Then, and only then, will I finally make my selection. Just after Mr. Fish Guy puts my fish in the plastic bag, I’ll say, “Um…and can I please smell that one too before you wrap it up?”. He’ll give me a look that says, “Oh phuck you. I’m not getting paid enough to put up with this crap!”, and hand over the bag. It’s amazing, but as I wheel my cart away, he always manages to tell me to have a nice day! He’s probably just glad to get rid of me.
The other day I was able to get my hands on some beautiful flounder filets. I love flounder because of its mild, slightly sweet flavor and lovely flaky texture. It’s also a nostalgia thing, because my mom made flounder all the time when I was a kid. I decided that I wanted some kind of crunchy topping or coating for it, so I entered my own personal Bermuda Triangle
– my pantry – and rooted around to see what would work. I found panko, almonds, pecans and pistachios. I grabbed the panko and pistachios and got to work.
I processed the nuts until they were just coarsely ground and mixed them with the panko, some dried parsley and dried onion bits. Then, I seasoned and floured my filets, dipped them in egg and coated them with the panko-nut mixture. I pan fried them in some olive oil and served them with a fabulous butter sauce that I made with shallots, white wine, cream and fresh Minneola juice. It was out. of. this. world!
That butter sauce was so good, it deserves its own paragraph or two. What I did was take a recipe for a basic beurre blanc, which traditionally has lemon in it, and swap out the lemon juice for minneola juice. Wondering what the hell a Minneola is? I’m glad you asked.
The Minneola tangelo is a specific hybrid citrus fruit that is made by crossing the “Duncan” grapefruit and the “Darcy” tangerine, (a mandarin orange). It was developed in Florida by the United States Department of Agriculture
in 1931. The Minneola combines the sweetness of the mandarin with the tart flavors of the grapefruit. It is a bell-shaped fruit with vibrant red-orange color. The Minneola does best in mild climates like Florida, and is widely available from December through February.
Using the Minneola juice gave the sauce a delicate sweet orange flavor. I also added a little ground ginger to balance out the sweetness with a little spice. It was really, really good! I think that any kind of orange or tangerine would work well with this sauce. I used the Minneola because I had some in the fridge. I’m so glad I did! This is definitely one for the “Keeper” file!
Pistachio Crusted Flounder with Mineola-Ginger Beurre Blanc
Serves 4 delicate flowers or 3 normal people
For the fish:
1/4 cup olive oil
6 flounder filets
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
1 1/2 cups shelled pistachio nuts, coarsely ground
2 tbsp dried parsley
2 tbsp dried minced onion
salt and pepper
Minneola Beurre Blanc (recipe follows)
Season fish with salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil, 2 tbsps at a time, in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Put flour in a plate for dredging and eggs in a bowl for dipping. Set aside.
Mix together panko, nuts, parsley and onion in a wide shallow bowl or baking dish.
Dredge each filet in flower and dip in egg to coat. Then, coat with the panko mixture, gently pressing the coating to make it stick.
Saute the filets in the skillet, about 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown. Add the additional oil as needed for frying. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
Plate the fish on a nice platter and drizzle with the beurre blanc.
For the Beurre Blanc:
1/4 cup minced shallot
1/2 cup white wine
3 tbsp fresh Minneola juice
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
6 tbsp softened butter, cut into chunks
salt and pepper to taste
Combine shallots, wine and juice in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue on a low boil until liquid is reduced to 1/3.
Stir in cream and ginger and simmer until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, one chunk at a time, until fully incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Check out what some other bloggers are doing with fish: