Thursday, September 23, 2010

Striper fishing: how to cook your catch of the day

by Matthew Phillips, Chef Adaire Catering

The crisp fall weather has finally made it's way to the peach state and along with cooler temperatures  striper fishing season has arrived at Lake Lanier. "The last two days have been exceptional on leadcore and downline bluebacks," says angling aficionado Shane Watson. The fish started jumping as early as September 16th at the freshwater lake, just begging to be caught and turned into dinner, according to Watson.

Speaking of dinner, this is the perfect time to take advantage of the last of the garden tomatoes and cucumber growing season. Compliment your freshly-caught striper with this recipe for a cool salsa along with directions on how to perfectly grill your catch of the day.

Grilled Striper with Gazpacho Salsa
Serves 4

2 ea fresh, garden tomatoes, diced
1 ea fresh, garden cucumbers, diced
1 ea ear of grilled corn, kernels removed
1 ea jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch, cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt and white pepper, to taste

4 ea striper fillet, skin on
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Extra cilantro sprigs
1 ea lemon, cut into wedges

Directions: Combine the first nine ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside for at least an hour unrefrigerated to allow the flavors to blend.

Get your coals going in your grill. We prefer hardwood lump charcoal to briquettes. The flavor is better and there is no filler or lighter fluid to burn off. It also burns at a high temperature and takes less time to be ready to grill. It will, however, burn faster so you may need more depending on how much you have to grill. In the meantime lightly coat the striper with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. When the grill is very hot, place the striper on the cleaned grate skin side down. When the skin is crispy, gently turn the fish to finish cooking and close the lid. When fish is just cooked through, place the gazpacho salsa on a platter and top with the fish skin side up. If desired garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs and lemon wedges.

The salsa can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and taken on site. The longer it has to allow the flavors to blend, the better it will be. This goes very well with rice pilaf or just a simple, crispy French baguette and a chilled Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

Bon voyage, bon appetit, and enjoy your striper!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lake Lanier provides a recipe for living

by Matthew Phillips, Chef Adaire Catering

Seven years ago we traded one Georgia lake for another. Our prior address, Allatoona was a smaller and more placid lake when compared to our current residence at Lake Lanier. Prior to relocating,  rumors had circulated that Lanier was chocked-full of activities but we had no idea until we relocated to the massive haven ourselves! 

Lake Lanier encompasses more than 39,000 acres and 692 miles of coastline. That's quite a lake by any standards - unless of course you live around The Great Lakes. Over 7.5 million people visit the lake each year,  a sign that it has it a lot to offer.  Lake Lanier rivals other attractions with it's numerous activities including: resort properties, marinas, tennis courts, special events, cabin rentals and more!

Perhaps one of the main attractions for sportsman throughout the Southeast are the fishing competitions. Many types of fish may be caught in the lake, but the one species that garners the most attention is the striped bass.

These hearty fish can reach a calculated maximum length of 6 1/2 feet with a possible maximum weight of 125 pounds. That's one heck of a fish and far to big to fit in the proverbial frying pan! The largest recorded (caught) bass weighed in at a whopping 78.5 pounds with the the record on Lake Lanier at an impressive 63 pounds. Striped bass tend to move between fresh and salt water which contributes greatly to their size.

Lake Lanier hosts numerous fishing tournaments with many centered around striped bass. As a chef, I have cooked striped bass and find the flesh to be tender, white, and mildly sweet with a relatively high fat content. This blend of flavor and consistency makes it conducive to many methods of cooking.

Today, I want to focus on a method of cooking called, sauteing. Sauteing is cooking over relatively high heat with a relatively small amount of fat. Saute literally means "to jump" in French. Here is one of my favorite recipes for cooking and preparing your bass.

Striped Bass with Tomato, Fennel, and Pernod
serves 4

Salt and white pepper, to taste
4 ea 6-8 oz fillets Striped Bass, skin on
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, whole, crushed
1 cup fennel, sliced
2/3 cup leek, sliced
3 ea Roma tomatoes, large dice
1/2 cup Pernod
1 cup clam juice
2 Tbsp butter
1 bunch fresh basil
1 lemon, cut in wedges

Directions: Pat fish dry with a paper towel and gently scrape skin side with back of knife to remove any excess moisture. Sprinkle skin liberally with salt and set aside for 30 minutes to an hour. Scrape salt from the skin with the back of your knife. This will give you a crispy skin which is one of the best parts. Heat oil over medium high heat in a heavy gauge saute pan for even heat distribution. Season flesh side of fillets with salt and white pepper. When oil is hot and shimmering, place fish in pan skin side down and shake pan once or twice after adding each fillet to prevent sticking. Leave fish alone for several minutes to allow the skin to crisp. When the skin is crispy, turn the fish over in the pan to the flesh side and cook until golden and just done. Remove from pan and hold in a warm oven, but do not cover completely. This will ensure the skin remains crispy. Add olive oil if necessary and increase the heat to high. Add the garlic and saute briefly until you can smell it. Add the fennel and leek and saute for a minute. Add the Roma tomatoes and saute briefly. Remove pan from heat and add the Pernod. Return to heat and add the clam juice. Reduce the liquid by half. Swirl in the butter until it has completely melted and incorporated. I prefer to remove the cloves of garlic, but you may leave them in if you prefer. Place the vegetable mixture on a plate and top with the fish, skin side up. Garnish with chiffonade of (very thinly sliced) fresh basil and lemon wedges.

This dish is excellent with risotto or Angel Hair pasta tossed with butter and a bit of pesto and a very nice, chilled Pinot Grigio.

Bon Appetit and enjoy your striper!