Photo | Yelp
Sunset Pointe’s trademark snapper throats come grilled or fried with vegetables and your choice of starch.
Let’s talk fish. I’ve been craving some away time with the family. I just need to unwind and do a little fishing. I’ve got that spring fever and it can only be cured by salty air and a dinner of fresh catch.
I don’t need some kind of Hemingway adventure. My idea of roughing it is finding a spot with limited cell service and a crappy grocery store, but the sheer thought of getting out of town (even slightly) has me giddy. I guess it’s a sign that I work too much. The early stages of planning this possible trip, however, got me to thinking about my favorite fish.
This is a polarizing subject in a town surrounded by all types of water. I’m no expert angler but I consider myself a fairly advanced eater. It’s an inherited trait that certainly came from the heftier side of my family. So as you and I have this one-sided discussion about fish, let’s keep in mind there is no right or wrong as to what is the best fish out there. These are my favorites, not yours, and I’ll limit the examples to mostly from the Gulf but readily available at any fishmonger and/or grocer in the greater Mobile area.
Tuna. No, not in the can. Tuna is at the top of the list because the word itself elicits the biggest response from me. I love it so much. It makes the best sushi because the rarer it is, the better. I love it raw. One of my favorite local dishes is Royal Scam’s Tuna Martini. They don’t even throw a Zippo on this. At home I usually barely sear a tuna steak and serve it thinly sliced with pickled carrot strips, onion and sliced avocado. On frisky days there’s a few raw jalapeño rings and soy sauce. Katie loves it too, but in her current state she’s not allowed, so lately I’ve removed the temptation from our family menu. You know, because I’m a gentleman. I’ll still do it when guests come over.
Triggerfish. Once you put a flame to this category, trigger becomes one of my favorites. You don’t see it on a lot of menus but it’s readily available all year long. Something about it favors more of a shellfish taste, of which I am quite fond. The former Italian Fisherman on Old Shell had great triggerfish, and nowadays I can usually get it at Chuck’s Fish on Dauphin Street. For me, trigger is best when you let it be the star. I do think it begs for butter and a little lemon juice, but too much sauce can mask its stellar taste.
Cobia. It is a shame we don’t see this fish in restaurants around here. Cobia (some smarty-pants locals call it ling or lemonfish) has an incredible taste that really takes on the flavors of what surrounds it in the sauté pan. These guys get pretty big so a good chunk on the grill is my preferred preparation. If you’ve never tried it, make friends with a fisherman.
Redfish. Here’s one of the most delicious for an easy meal thanks to its size and flavor. Redfish is easily the best more expensive fish for me. There’s something about them I crave, and I always use the bones to make a quick pan sauce. The term “redfish” can mean different things depending on where you stand, but here we’re referring to the red drum. Try it blackened, maybe from a Paul Prudhomme recipe. Alabama anglers are cleared to keep up to three per day, but if your limit is less than your guest list, Cajun Mudbugs at the Loop can hook you up. They will filet it for you, but be sure to take home the bones.
Red snapper. I have ordered redfish and come home with red snapper from markets. The big, flaky fish is, for my money, best done whole on the grill. The larger bones make it more manageable to pull the meat, but be careful to not get poked when cleaning this big boy. After cleaning, cut two slits on each side. Stuffing the cavity with garlic, lemon and onions is a great start. Seasoning-wise you could do anything from Cajun to Greek with many points in between, as snapper handles seasoning pretty well. A good cumin rub and lime wedges add an earthy Latin flair while fresh herbs and lemon go well with Italian-themed meals. But the best part of the snapper is the throat.
Grouper. I miss the days of Queen G’s on Old Shell. I was an oyster junkie, a faithful devotee of the perfectly fried, plump nuggets of succulence. The rendition at this restaurant was unmatched. Some days I got the oyster/fish combination plate with extra veggies and was offered my choice of grouper or catfish. I’m very particular about catfish in that I prefer to eat it whole, fried with all the crispy fins, so at Queen G’s I’d opt for the grouper fillets. This firm fish is great fried, baked, pecan encrusted or grilled. Queen G’s may have vanished but you can scratch that itch at Sunset Pointe. They do a lot of grouper (as well as snapper throats).
I could go on, but that’s all the room I have for fish. Black drum, amberjack, mackerel, speckled trout, salmon — I know I’ve left out plenty. What may be elusive in our Gulf waters is only a supermarket trip away. I’m not someone who does a whole lot of Gulf fishing but I do recognize how lucky we are to be surrounded by such productive waters. Send me your selections and recipes. I’d love to know that special fish that gets you excited.
Let’s go fishing. The best way to unwind is to unwind a line.
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