Monday, August 30, 2010

Fish Bites, Remoulade and Roadhouse Dives: this is Hatteras

Grouper Bites with Spicy Remoulade Hatteras Island, N.C.
Hatteras Island, North Carolina is its own kinda vacation spot. If you've got a big-ass truck, are addicted to saltwater fishing, divey food joints, spectacular sunsets, and prefer to spend the majority of your time sans shoes, shirt or make-up, you need to come here. If you're looking for crowded beaches with lots of nightlife, frozen seafood buffets, dolphin watch tours, water parks and high rise hotels, this ain't your place.

To give this proper perspective, nightlife in Hatteras pretty much consists of the moon-- staring at the moon, commenting on the tides, and watching out for shooting stars, all while imbibing whatever adult beverages you've got stashed in the fridge. While there are a few spots for late-night evening activities, there's not a single high-rise hotel on the entire island, and you can dolphin-watch for free from any nearby beach, which also doubles as its own natural water park, where fishing, kayaking or sleeping the day away is a must. It's quiet here, blissfully so, and it's the kind of place where the sounds of lapping waves, calling gulls and crickets lull you off to sleep instead of honking horns, drunken street brawls or worse, some teenagers' radio blasting The Jonas Brothers off in the distance.

All of this Hatteras magic takes place, of course, after you've spent the last hour or two staring at one of these:
Evening sunset on Canadian Hole, Hatteras Island
When it comes to eats, stash your shoes, slip on your flip flops and head to the nearest hole-in-the-wall such as Pop's Raw Bar & Restaurant in Buxton, where vacationers and locals happily mix. Pop's is a no-frills kinda joint where locally caught seafood is served up unadulterated on paper plates alongside plenty of ice cold beer. The bar is nearly always full here and is the perfect spot to share a tall fish tale or a bit of local gossip.
While the fact that Pop's defines what is so appealing about Hatteras Island (i.e. the kick off your shoes and stay a while roadhouse vibe) this joint also offers up some seriously good food. Since Pop's is a haven for the hardcore angler, you can bet they serve only the freshest catch. During the summer months, you're looking at steamed, spiced shrimp with drawn butter (the best we had on the island), grouper bites with an array of dipping sauces (from homemade tartar to cocktail) fried clam, oyster and crab cake sandwiches, all served with a big pile of freshly grated slaw, French fries and oniony hush puppies. Oh yeah, and really, really cold beer.

If you're not catching anything yourself and are craving a mess of fresh seafood, grab some to go and head back at your rental. For super-fresh local-caught fish, shrimp, clams etc...I must recommend Risky Business Seafood at Oden's Dock in Hatteras where you can get your shrimp steamed and spiced to order, a couple of their hand pressed crab cakes, or if you come after 4pm, perhaps some tuna, Wahoo, Red Drum or Mahi straight off the boats.
Guys cleaning Mahi
When it comes to enjoying a little taste of Hatteras at home, try your hand at making a batch of fish bites with tartar or spicy remoulade. Feel free to use my recipe for cornmeal dusted flounder and instead of frying up your fish as a large filet cut it into smaller bite-size chunks and shallow fry those. Add a homemade tartar or remoulade dipping sauce (see recipe below) along with a couple squeezes if lemon and you are good to go. Finally, grab a cold one, kick back and share your latest tall fish tale while starting at the moon, the stars or if you're lucky enough, a peaceful orange sunset.

Kickin’ Remoulade Dipping Sauce
Serve this sassy dipping sauce with a big pile of fish bites. While most any chunky, flaky white fish will do, I recommend using either Rockfish, Mahi, Grouper or Flounder.

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
3 tablespoons minced sweet pickle
1 tablespoon minced parsley, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons minced red onion 
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 minced green onion, both white and green parts
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and Pepper
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Old Bay, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste

Mix all of your ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Top with additional minced parsley.  Best made a day ahead. Serve with fish bites or any fried seafood.

Makes approximately 1 cup of dipping sauce.

©2010 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Gone Fishing!

We're busting out our saltwater poles and heading to the shore.  If we're lucky, our catch will look something like this:
or this:
Only the inshore/offshore fishing gods know for sure.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for a couple of recipes and, of course, plenty of tall fishing tails! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Golden Cornmeal-Crusted Quick-Fry Flounder

Kendra Bailey Morris
So, last night the hubby and I had a hankering for a big piece of fresh fish and the conversation went like this,

Hubs: "What you want for dinner?
Me: "Man, I would love a big piece of fresh fish."
Hubs: "Aww yeee. Do it."

So, off we set to our favorite place in the Richmond area to buy fish Yellow Umbrella Seafood where we know we will get the freshest goodies in town. When it comes to fresh seafood, like many people, I'm a stickler and I don't mind paying top dollar to get what I want. While our first preference is to catch our dinner...
Fishing in Avon, Hatteras Island, NC
and then whip up a little ditty back at the homestead...

unless we're pirating another family's vacation home in the OBX, the majority of the time, we are left to purchase our saltwater treats.

When it comes to fishing, fish and all the jazz, I like to keep things simple, especially when you're working with seafood that was pulled from the water merely hours  before. This stuff is so fresh, so packed with the essence of the sea, it would be a culinary crime to over season, over flavor or generally overdo it in any way. This is why, when I can get my hands on a hunk of fresh flounder, Virginia-caught rockfish, mahi or Wahoo, I ain't messing with it.  Give me some cornmeal, milk (or buttermilk), a vat of Crisco and a cast iron pot, and I'll make you dinner.

My dad is a fried seafood expert, and I learned from him the art of lightly dusting my fish, oysters, shrimp, etc... in real stone ground cornmeal (not the super fine stuff, by the way) that he would buy up in cases from an old gristmill on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill. Mabry Mill makes real deal cornmeal that's packed with just enough to the tooth crunch that it livens up any standard breading.

Dipped in milk and then dredged in a mixture of self-rising cornbread mix (for fluff) and stone ground cornmeal, we fry our fish exclusively Crisco in cast iron. With that in mind, let me suggest that if you choose to make this recipe at home, and are one those people who happen to have an aversion to shortening (as some people do...wha?) might I suggest two options for you: get the heck over it and stick to steaming your fish.

This recipe is fried goodness in all its glory, so either dive in head first and enjoy the ride or hop off the boat.

Golden Cornmeal-Crusted Quick-Fry Flounder
Adapted from "White Trash Gatherings: From-Scratch Cooking for Down-Home Entertaining, Ten Speed Press, 2006)

Serves 4

1/2 cup white stone ground cornmeal
1/3 cup yellow self-rising cornbread mix
Pinch of salt (and/or Old Bay)
3/4 cup milk (or buttermilk)
One pound fresh flounder (or other white fish)
Shortening, for frying

Preheat a large cast iron pan to medium-high.  Add about a 1/4 inch of melted shortening to the pan. In a medium flat-bottomed bowl, mix cornmeal and cornbread mix.  Add a little salt and/or Old Bay.  Pour milk in a separate flat pan. Place flounder in milk and soak for a few minutes. Then dredge in cornmeal mixture.  Fry fish skin-side down in hot oil until crunchy and crispy. Drain on paper towels and season with a little more salt.

Serve your fish with homemade tartar sauce.

Note: This fish recipe is excellent for fish sandwiches (on a roll with lettuce, tomato and tartar) or stuffed inside a warm soft flour tortilla topped with crunchy slaw, pico de gallo, a squeeze of fresh lime and Mexican crema. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Five Kitchen Must-Have’s For Down-Home Country Cookin'

Kendra Bailey Morris

Things are getting rowdy over at CNN's kickin' food blog Eatocracy
Who knew that a Top Five Country Cookin' food post could incite such controversy?  From obesity in America to what defines Southern cooking, the comment section has lit up. Looks like the war between the North and South is back in business.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Marinated Bean Salad Stands Up to Summer's Heat

Kendra Bailey Morris
I suppose it's the searing temperatures that have left me with cold salads on the brain -- cider slaw, potato salad, pasta salad. Not only are these summery dishes easy to make, but they're just made to stand beside a platter of pulled pork barbecue or a freshly grilled burger. And, when it comes to hosting an afternoon picnic, cold salads are not only super-portable, but they get better with age, making them an ideal do-ahead food.

One of my all-time favorite cold salad dishes is bean salad. It's refreshingly piquant and healthy.

Whether you prefer your bean salad as a three-way or five-way, this is a side dish that not only keeps the whole gang happy, but has a lasting shelf life and gets better with time. From beachside barbecues to family reunions, a big bowl of marinated bean salad is built to satisfy and last.

The jury is still out on how many beans actually make for a classic bean salad. The Internet runs amok with three-bean salads using red pinto beans, yellow wax beans and green beans. Others prefer a four or five-bean salad with the addition of black beans, cannellini beans or chickpeas. Debates further continue between those who insist on using fresh green beans versus canned and drained. Toss in a difference of opinion when it comes to herbs and spices (dill versus basil versus cilantro) and you're faced with an overwhelming surplus of options.
Kendra Bailey Morris
I prefer to go classic with a mixture of green, wax and pinto beans. But the many other variations that make their way onto the dinner table shouldn't be discounted.

A Mexican bean salad is a great alternative to the traditional and makes an excellent accompaniment to grilled steak fajitas or fish tacos. Often including freshly shucked corn, black beans, minced cilantro and lime juice (instead of or in addition to vinegar), a Mexican bean salad is well worth the effort.

Black-eyed pea salads are another way to use those beans. This gem is made with onion, celery and bell peppers and gets plenty of spunk from the addition of cayenne pepper. All you need is a piece of freshly grilled catfish and some sweetened cornbread to complete this comforting meal.

And we can't leave off Italy. White bean salad is another favorite. Made from cannellini beans (a large white bean), red onion, red wine vinegar, fresh parsley and plenty of extra-virgin olive oil, this side can easily be turned into a full-fledged entrée. Just add a piece of grilled tuna or some canned white tuna packed in olive oil.

Because most bean salads are simple to make and tend to involve similar ingredients (beans, oil, vinegar and/or sugar) much of your success lies in the little things. Here are a few tips to make the most of your next bean salad.

If you decide to use fresh green or wax beans instead of canned, be sure to lightly blanch them in salted water for just a minute or two (once they hit the marinade, they will soften even more). Be sure to plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process.

When it comes to canned beans, instead of using the lid of the can to drain (which will smash them in no time), drain the beans in a colander, running them under water to remove as much of the bean "goo" as you can.

If you're watching your sugar and/or calories, simply use less sugar and oil and more fresh herbs, garlic or onions. Adding a couple tablespoons of honey instead of sugar is another way to add a touch of sweetness without the refined sugar factor.

Finally, this salad is meant to be marinated for a long time -- at least 24 hours -- so plan ahead. I make mine at least two days ahead since it will keep for up to a week and simply get better with time. Also, be sure to stir the bean mixture periodically (at least every several hours) so the marinade permeates as much of the salad ingredients as possible.
Kendra Bailey Morris

KB's Summertime Five-Bean Salad
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

One 15-ounce can cut green beans, drained
One 15-ounce can yellow wax beans, drained
One 15-ounce garbanzo beans, drained
One 15-ounce black beans, rinsed and drained
One 15-ounce kidney beans, rinsed and drained
One large green bell pepper, diced
One large onion, sliced thin
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup white wine vinegar (cider vinegar works well, too)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Freshly chopped dill, to taste

In a large bowl, mix beans, green pepper and onions. In a separate bowl, whisk sugar, vinegar, oil, garlic salt and black pepper until the sugar is dissolved. Pour dressing over beans and toss well. Cover and store in the fridge at least 24 hours. Stir bean mixture from time to time during this period to make sure the dressing evenly coats the salad. -- Kendra Bailey Morris

Note: This article originally appeared in The Richmond Times Dispatch  as part of Kendra's weekly food and cooking column The Accidental Chef. Kendra Bailey Morris is a Richmond-based food writer, culinary instructor and author of "White Trash Gatherings: From-Scratch Cooking for Down-Home Entertaining" (Ten Speed Press). Send ideas, tips or culinary questions to or chime in on

©2010 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission Pin It Now!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Journey to the Bahamas: Tips, Tricks and Recipes for Hosting a Caribbean Dinner Party

Chef James Van Dyke's Grilled Snapper Salad
Ahhh, Harbour Island, Bahamas. How I wish I was back. Sun, fun, and rum, all topped off with an al fresco, beachfront cooking class at Pink Sands Resort  For more about Bahamian cooking along with some great recipes (donated by the chef himself) check out my feature in the Richmond Times Dispatch on hosting a Caribbean-themed dinner party at home. Here's a great conch salad recipe to get you started! Pin It Now!
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