Category Archives: Fish Recipes

Salmon, Steelhead and Trout Smoking Tips

Salmon/Steelhead/Trout Smoking Tips from Yakima Baits
By Yakima Baits Pro Buzz Ramsey
from The Fishing Wire

Smoking fish tips

For over 20 years, I spent a month or more at a time chasing winter steelhead on the Oregon Coast, taking outdoor writers, fishing tackle buyers and industry VIP’s fishing. Since I worked for a fishing tackle company that made smokers designed for fish and game, I went out of my way to have fresh smoked fish available during our fishing adventures. The method that enabled me to fish friends and business associates each and every day and share fresh smoked fish too was the following:

I’d fillet my catch at the end of the day and place the best cuts for smoking (the bellies and collars) in my favorite liquid brine and refrigerate until the end of the next fishing day.

It’s then that I would remove the fillets from the brine, rinse well, let them air dry for an hour or two before sprinkling them with spices and placing in my smoker and letting the heating element burn two pans full of wood smoke during the evening hours (before bed).

Given that most of the smoking process, after the smoke from a couple pans of wood is applied, is just drying the fish to the right consistency, I’d just let the smoker run all night, while I slept, and unplug it shortly after the alarm rang the next early AM. It was then that I’d let the fillets cool before placing them in a paper bag with several layers of paper towels in the bottom.

Having fresh smoked fish in the drift boat while chasing fish each day was a big hit with everyone and especially those whose job it was to keep retail stores supplied with smokehouse products.

The home made brine that I mixed then and continue to use includes (remember to stir well):

1/4 cup non-iodized salt (iodized salt is bitter)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup apple juice
1 cup sugar (brown sugar works too)
1 to 1-1/2 quart water (depending on amount of fish)
Immerse fish fillets in the above solution, refrigerate overnight (longer is OK), rinse thoroughly in fresh water, pat dry with paper towels, place on smokehouse racks (skin side down helps prevents sticking), sprinkle with ground garlic, onion and black pepper (or other favorite spices), and add a final sprinkling of sugar and let air dry of an hour or more before placing in you smokehouse.

Smoke until done, depending on quantity and desired texture– 6 to 12 hours usually works depending on outside temperature and the heat generated by your smoker.

When Trash Fish Get Trendy

How Fisheries Managers Respond When Trash Fish Get Trendy

Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2013 National Survey

By Chris Macaluso, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
from The Fishing Wire

Fisheries management can be influenced by the American appetite for (certain kinds of) seafood, which makes it even more important that the system works better for anglers

My brother Joey and I were weird, I guess. When we were kids, we loved to fish for sheepshead, which, at the time, were generally thought to be a “trash” fish and were despised by most Louisiana anglers.

Sheepshead are ugly by any objective standard. They have big, goofy buckteeth, gray and black skin, and a row of foreboding spikes along their dorsal fins. They’re also an absolute pain to clean. Some charter guides I knew when I was in my teens refused to even put them in the ice chest, for fear that they would wind up on the cleaning table along with the better speckled trout and redfish.

But I never agreed with sheepshead getting a bad rap. First of all, they fight like caged, rabid raccoons. And on our summer trips to Grand Isle or fall excursions to Cocodrie, the sheepshead aggressively ate a piece of shrimp or hermit crab on a jig head when the speckled trout wouldn’t cooperate, and they guaranteed that we had some fresh fish to go with our suppers of canned beans, and French bread.

Sure, you had to hack through some thick rib bones and tough scales to get a filet. But crabs are hard to clean, and I don’t know too many folks who consider boiled and steamed blue crabs to be “trash,” just because the meat is difficult to pick out.

Then, about 15 years ago, sheepshead started showing up on restaurant menus under the pseudonym “bay snapper.” Suddenly, a bunch of anglers who would never have kept an ugly, stubborn sheepshead were raving about how tasty their fish-of-the-day lunch special was.

Now, pretty much every restaurant in South Louisiana has sheepshead on the menu or as a fresh-fish special. I guess the cliché about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure applies.

I’m often struck by how frequently recreational and commercial fishermen are pitted against each other over a handful of “popular” fish because they taste good or they fight hard or simply because they are easy to catch. How many fish like sheepshead, once considered less desirable by both recreational and commercial fishermen, are out there? How can fishing for these species lessen the animosity that has been built over fish like red snapper?

I’m also dumbfounded, at times, by the argument that states are not as equipped to manage commercial fisheries as the federal government, especially when states have responded to the increased popularity of sheepshead with adapted management for both recreational and commercial harvest. And still we don’t fight over sheepshead at state commission meetings like we do over red snapper at the federally directed Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council.

State fisheries agencies generally do a good job of conservatively managing commercial and recreational fishing, which is one of the reasons the TRCP and many of its sportfishing partners support the Modern Fish Act—because it would increase the role that states play in federal management and data collection for recreational fishing.

CMac’s special recipe.
Cats, Carp, and Courtbouillon

Like sheepshead, there are other fish thought of as trash, simply by reputation. On a late-March trip to Grand Isle, my fishing buddies got to tie into a handful of gafftopsail catfish, another much-maligned, yet hard-tugging and good-eating saltwater predator. I kept the fish, despite some dirty looks, and I used the filets to make a catfish courtbouillon, a rich tomato-based stew my family ate on Good Friday.

Everyone said it was delicious. They had no idea they were eating trash, I guess.

Gafftops, unlike their cousins the hardhead catfish, aren’t bottom-dwelling scavengers. They strike lures as aggressively as redfish and speckled trout and fight every bit as hard. On a memorable day in late August a few years ago, several five-pound gafftops exploded on topwater plugs in the Grand Isle surf when I was aiming for specks. The surface boiled and my drag screamed as if a redfish or big trout had busted the bait. But when the fight was over, my friends looked in disgust at what was on the end of the line. Similar to the way sheepshead were looked at 30 years ago, some of my friends won’t even put a gafftop in the ice chest for fear of scorn at the cleaning table.

But the list of reformed trash fish is growing each year. Bonito were once only kept for cut bait and chum, but if the meat is taken care of, they are just as tasty as their blackfin tuna relatives. Even the dreaded invasive Asian carp is pretty tasty after being dredged in seasoned corn meal and dropped in hot grease. There are more than enough of them available for those who want to give them a taste.

Making the Most of Our Time on the Water

I’m not suggesting that I would give up on a good trout bite or a school of hungry redfish to chase down gafftops or throw chunks of hermit crabs at sheepshead. But, like many fishermen who have busy home- and work-lives, I like to catch something while I’m out there—I’m not going to turn down the opportunity to hook aggressive-striking, hard-pulling fish and keep a few of them for the grill or the fryer.

And I’m not suggesting that improving the management of popular species like red snapper or cobia is less important because there are other fish out there to catch. My point is that, too often, anglers fall into the trap of getting hung up on catching one fish or another, and it can lead to a less enjoyable time on the water if a particular season is closed or the target species doesn’t cooperate that day. It might be up to us to “dig in the trash” more often.

But as attitudes towards these fish evolve and change, it will be even more important that our system of federal fisheries management does not ignore recreational fishing—because restaurant trends will come and go, but the importance of predictable seasons to local outdoor recreation businesses will not.

Read more conservation news at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership here

Clam Chowder Recipe

Our Coast’s Food: The Best Clam Chowder
While turkey is the undisputed table champion on Thanksgiving, most of us who have spent our time around the water would not mind starting off the big meal with a bowl of clam chowder–here’s a look at a few of the ways this great coastal dish can be prepared, from Coastal Review Online.

by Liz Biro, Coastal Review
from The Fishing Wire

Down East clam chowder is always made with mostly clams. Photo: Vanda Lewis/North Carolina Sea Grant, from “Mariner’s Menu”
Most Americans would say that the United States has two clam chowders, the creamy New England-style and the tomato-based Manhattan kind. They know this in a large part due to the Campbell’s Soup company bringing both chowders to the masses. Who didn’t grow up with Mom pouring a can of clam chowder into a pot?

I would argue there are three types of clam chowder in America, the third and best being North Carolina’s own. Some people call it “Hatteras clam chowder,” others call it “Down East clam chowder,” but most locals just call it “clam chowder” because no matter where you’re from on the N.C. coast, it’s always made with mostly clams.

Agreeing on a clam chowder recipe is no small deal. In New England, where those other two chowders are from, cooks constantly quarrel over which recipe is correct. Milk- or cream-based New England-style with potatoes and onions might be thick or thin. Manhattan-style seasoned with garlic and often soup vegetables such as carrots, onions and celery has many variations. Long Islanders add milk or cream. Floridians include hot chilies. In New Jersey, cooks stir in light cream, creamed asparagus and celery powder.

It was all too much for one Maine legislator to take. In the mid-1900s, New England clam chowder devotee Rep. Cleveland Sleeper was so offended by Manhattan-style chowder that he kept drafting bills to make putting tomatoes in clam chowder a crime. Offenders would have been forced to dig a barrel of clams at high tide.

The issue was supposedly finally put to rest in the so-called “Maine chowder war of 1939.” It was a chef-to-chef battle, New England vs Manhattan. New England won, and Sleeper gloated. “If a clam could vote,” he said, “I would be elected president.”

Debate, however, never ended.

Maine Rep. Cleveland Sleeper believed that the tomatoes in Manhattan-style clam chowder polluted the stew. Photo: Wikipedia
Sleeper thought, as other Manhattan chowder haters still do, that tomatoes polluted the stew. So does milk or cream, as far as native coastal North Carolinians are concerned. They put nothing but clams, potatoes, onions and water in their clam chowder because they like chowder that tastes like fresh clams. What’s more accurate than that?

Food historians think the word “chowder” derives from the French word “chaudière,” meaning “boiler,” or a large iron cooking pot. When early French settlers landed in what are now Canada’s Maritimes, they found the region’s native Micmac peoples cooking clams in hollowed out tree trunks, Alan Davidson writes in “The Oxford Companion to Food” (Oxford University Press, 1999). Water was poured into the tree trunks and fire-heated stones were dropped into the water. When the French introduced their chaudière, it seems chowder was invented.

The word chowder, showed up in North America in the 1730s. Today, it means seafood stew, but it may have originally referred to any soup or stew cooked in a large pot to feed a crowd. Back then, there was no such thing as an “authentic” chowder recipe.

The oldest chowder formulas were water-based fish soups containing root vegetables, potatoes among them, Food Timeline has found. Wine, cider and spices added flavor and hard bread or crackers bulk. Nary an ounce of milk went into a recipe billed New England Chowder in the 1847 cookbook titled “The Frugal Housekeeper’s Kitchen Companion or Guide to Economical Cookery.”

Mid-1800s recipes suggested flour to give the chowders body. Around the same time, Rhode Island cooks were adding tomatoes, thanks to Portuguese immigrants introducing the state to their country’s seafood stews.

New England-style clam chowder includes milk or cream. Photo: Wikipedia
By the end of the century, New Englanders were leaving out wine, cider and spices in favor of onions, potatoes, salt pork and milk from the dairy cows that took well to the Northeast’s cooler climate.

Meantime, tomato-based chowder became known as Manhattan-style for no exact reason. In “The Book of Chowder” (Harvard Common Press, 1978) author Richard J. Hooker tells of famed New York restaurant Delmonico’s 1894 recipe for Chowder de Lucines made with pork, parsley, thyme, onions, potatoes, clams and tomatoes.

None of the debate mattered to working families living frugally along the North Carolina and other state coasts. They made clam chowder with what was available. The humble version favored in North Carolina also took hold in Delaware, where cooks added butter. Salt pork went into some North Carolina pots for seasoning. Cornmeal dumplings floated on top added the extra bulk men and women needed for the hard work of fishing, farming and tending homesteads.

Coastal North Carolina families still love that basic chowder. Many tourists visiting the state’s beaches wouldn’t think of a fried seafood dinner at a restaurant without a first course of Hatteras clam chowder. It never goes out of style, and it never comes in a can.

Down East Clam Chowder

¼ pound salt pork, sliced
1 quart coarsely chopped large chowder clams
1 quart water
½ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups diced white potatoes

In a large saucepan, fry pork over medium heat until crisp. Remove pork. Add clams, water, onion, salt, pepper and, if desired, chopped pork to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer slowly until clams are tender, about 1½ hours. Add potatoes and onions, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Source: Adapted from “Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas” (North Carolina Sea Grant, 2003)

Eat Carp and Other Stuff

Recently I was talking with Kenny DeLay about carp. He shoots them with his bow, and has a boat set up for going after them. He asked me if I ever ate one. That went right along with an article I read recently about using every part of a deer you shoot.

I grew up on a farm and we wasted nothing. The old saying about using everything about a pig except its squeal was applied to our living. From that it is hard for me to throw out anything edible, even if it seems strange to some.

Back in the mid-1980s I was at our place at Raysville Boat Club on Clarks Hill, camping in my small trailer. Mom and dad were staying on the other side of the point in their mobile home. I was off for the summer so I put out sinking catfish food under our boat docks every day, hoping to get some catfish baited up.

One day about noon I was walking from the bath house past the docks and saw my mom fishing under them. She was sitting in her chair and reared back on her rod and Zebco reel, fighting something big.

I watched for several minutes and was close enough to hear her coaching herself, reminding herself to stay calm and not reel too fast. I heard her say “”keep you rod tip up.”

I went to help and netted a six pound carp for her. Since we considered them trash fish and considered them inedible because of all the little bones, we threw it back and mom went back to catching bream and trying for catfish to fry.

That night I got to thinking about the carp coming to the catfish food. I found a can of kernel corn, something I heard they liked, and got one of my light spinning rods rigged with a small hook. I had been under the dock only a few minutes when something hit my corn and took off. It turned out to be another six pound carp.

I caught three more that night before going to bed. The next morning I got mom and dad to fish with me and we started catching carp. Although I think we lost more than we landed, during the next three days we caught 37 weighing 157 pounds.

We didn’t want all the carp in the lake so we threw them in the bottom of our run-about tied under the dock. The first afternoon dad went to a nearby marina to get some hooks and a guy there told him how to cook carp.

We fileted all those carp and put the chunks of meat in pint jars with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of oil. Mom then put them in the pressure cooker at 15 pounds for 90 minutes. The jars sealed when they cooled.

Carp are full of little bones and hard to eat, but after canning them the bones were soft, like the bone in canned salmon. Although they don’t have the same flavor as canned salmon they make great croquettes

when mixed with spices and fried. I ate many meals of them over the years.

A few years ago Hovie Smith and I were at an outdoor writers meeting at Lake Eufaula. I took him out bow fishing and he shot a gar. I had never eaten one but he said he would show me how to clean it and cook it.

Hovie took tin snips and cut up the middle of the back, then peeled out the meat along both sides of the backbone. It was like taking out the back straps of a deer. There was a round piece of meat about 18 inches long and and two inches in diameter.

I cut the meat into two inch long chunks and sautéed it in butter. It was good and reminded me of Florida Lobster. The meat had that musky flavor and was a little chewy, but good.

It is way too much trouble to clean a gar that way but I found a much easier way. A few years ago I saw a jug moving around in the middle of Germany Creek in the middle of the day. It had a four foot gar on it and I took it in.

After killing it I gutted it and took a hacksaw and cut its body into one foot chunks. That night after grilling a steak I put the chunks on the grill, covered it and left it for about an hour. When I took it off the armor-plated skin peeled right off and the meat was warm and good when dipped into melted butter!

As I said, we never threw any food away. My mom could cook and old boot and make it taste good, so imagine how good regular food tasted. But we did go to extremes. After a dove shoot some folks pop the breast out and throw the rest of the bird away.

We cooked it all, to the point of saving the tiny hearts and livers to make giblet gravy to go with the fried birds. We would even take the little gizzard, split it and clean it out to add to the gravy.

I am careful shooting deer to try not to hit the heart or liver. I enjoy slicing them both and frying with onions, then making rich brown gravy. The liver is easy to clean, all you have to do is cut out the white connective tissue and the big blood vessels at the base of it. The heart takes a little more time since you have to take out the valves from all four chambers, but I think it is worth it.

I ate beef tongue one time and it was good. A recent magazine article told how to take out a deer tongue and clean and cook it. That will be my new meat for this year when I kill a deer.

How Do I Make Smoked Salmon and Trout

Smoked Salmon and Trout On a Budget

Use your “freezer fish,” and avoid fishmonger sticker shock!

By Andy Lightbody and Kathy Mattoon
Photos by Kathy Mattoon
from The Fishing Wire

Depending on where you live, it seemed like a long and cold winter, where cleaning out the freezer of last season’s salmon and trout fillets just wasn’t in the cards. Now that most of the “arctic blasts” are over, it’s time to start reliving some of last year’s great angling memories and making room for some of the fresh fish from springtime adventures that are just around the corner!

Little Chief

Little Chief

It’s time to clean out the freezer and turn those fillets into great eating and economical smoked trout and salmon. Instead of $26-$60 a pound for questionable quality, the Little Chief smoker let’s you make “great eats” for pennies on the dollar.

The big bonuses for doing some “refrig-rummaging” is that not only are you going to win a few points from your significant-other and cleaning out the freezer, but you’re going to turn out some mouth-watering smoked fish and likely discover new neighbors and friends that you never knew you had before.

Many of us live in areas where smoked salmon and trout are not something you can find at the local grocery store, or even a fresh fish mart. For many, it’s a treat and delicacy that can be only found by ordering on the Internet, and often times with less than delicious results. Do a quick computer net search and it is not uncommon to see smoked salmon selling for $26-$40 a pound, and rainbow trout at $60 a pound. Add in shipping and questionable eating quality, and I have very few friends that I want to spend that kind of $$$$ on!

Instead, of suffering from credit-card-sticker-shock, it is drop dead easy to make it yourself for literally a few pennies on the dollar.

Begin by defrosting your trout or salmon fillets. Ten pounds of fillets are going to smoke, dry and end up producing about 3-4 pounds of smoked fish when finished. If you want to take the fillets and turn them into jerky instead of moist fish bites, all you do is follow this same recipe and just increase the drying time until the fillets have about 90 percent of the moisture reduced. Ten pounds of fish fillets will turn into around 1 pound of jerky.

In order to keep everything as simple as possible and easy to prepare, our top choice for the brining process is the Smokehouse Trout & Salmon Brine Mix ( It’s a prepackaged, premixed combination of salt, sugar and flavorful spices that mix up with 2-quarts of water and can be used for up to about 15-pounds of fillets. If your fillets are more than ¾ of an inch in thickness, use a sharp knife and do some simple cross-cuts laterally on the flesh-side of the fish. This increases the surface area of the fillet and allows it to better absorb the brine and spices.

Smokehouse Trout & Salmon Brine

Smokehouse Trout & Salmon Brine

The Smokehouse Trout & Salmon Brine Mix is prepackaged, premixed with salt, sugar and spices, and ready to use with 2-quarts of water. One box will do up to 15 pounds of fish and marinates your fillets in the refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours.

Once mixed, fish and brine are put in a glass bowl or small plastic bucket and allowed to marinate for 8-12 hours. Even 24+ hours of brining won’t hurt a thing, and we often throw the bucket in the refrigerator and let it soak overnight. The real chemistry behind brining is actually pretty simple. All fish, poultry and meats already contain salt water. By immersing and soaking them in a liquid with a higher concentration of salt, the brine is absorbed into the meat. Whatever spices and flavors that are in that brine are absorbed as well.

After marinating, gently rinse the fillets and lay them out on your smoker rack to air dry for approximately 1-hour. As always, spraying the racks, even the supposedly “non-stick” types, with a non-stick spray or wiping the surfaces with vegetable oil will keep the fillets from sticking while smoking and drying.

Smokers are as much a personal choice and preference as trying to suggest what make/model of car is your favorite. For home-use, ease and affordability, there is little question as to why the Smokehouse Big Chief or Little Chief electric smokers ( reign supreme. They’ve been around since 1968, are easy to operate, provide constant temperatures and turn out “great eats.” Virtually everyone we know began their smoking-careers with one of these!

Regardless of your smoker choice, the idea behind all smoked fish is to dry/dehydrate and add flavor, without turning it into a high-temp oven. Low, slow and with temperatures of 165 degrees F to no more than 200 degrees F is the key to success.

With the fillets on the racks, you’re ready to add your personal touch and “flavor profiles.” Once brined, some folks like to just use the flavor from the wood smoke. Others want to go with Cajun, Lemon/Pepper, Chili, Mexican, Teriyaki, Dill, Rice Vinegar, and Hoisin or seasoned-salt options. Here is where you are limited only by your imagination!

Into the smoker, and our favorite wood flavor is Alder, because it is a light wood and delicate. For a sweeter touch, try apple chunks or chips. If you want to go bolder, try cherry, mesquite or even hickory. As with all smoking of fish or game, too much and it becomes overpowering and equates to eating a charcoal-briquette offering.

Alder wood chips

Alder wood chips

Alder wood chips or chunks are the favorite for making your own smoked trout and salmon. Three or four three pans of chunks/chips will add a light smoke flavor without overpowering the delicious taste of the fish.

Our best results are from using 3-4 pans of wood chips (one immediately after the other) in total. Each pan of chips will burn/smolder/smoke for approximately 45 minutes, so you are actually smoking the fillets for about 3 hours, and they should start to turn a light golden brown as the smoking process continues.

After the smoke, simply use the heat from your smoker to finish the fish, which can vary greatly, depending upon outside temperature, wind conditions and even air humidity. Based on those outside weather conditions, your smoked fillets will be ready in anywhere from 3 ½-8 hours. At this point, the fillets can be brushed with additional Teriyaki, honey, Hoisin, soy sauce, etc. Just keep checking them periodically and dry them till they are done to your taste and texture.

Once smoked and prepared to taste, remove the fillets from the racks to prevent sticking and let them final cool/ air dry for an hour. This however is the most difficult part of the entire process, for you’ll be guaranteed that the temptation to taste, sample or simply eat will be virtually overwhelming. If there are any left to save for later, zip-lock bags and into the refrigerator will let them last up to a week or more. Put into vacuum sealed bags and placed into the freezer, they will last for many months and simply need to be defrosted when ready to eat.

Our rule of thumb is… if you think you made enough, you probably will soon discover that you should have doubled the recipe. Bon appétit!

Baked Striper with Bacon and Onions

I don’t cook many stripers and hybrids. They have a line of dark red, oily meat along their sides and it has a very strong fishy flavor. I would much rather eat a spotted bass or crappie. And when I try to cut out that dark meat as many suggest I just make a mess of the filet.

I do have one good recipe for those strong tasting fish. I took one of the filets and put it in a baking pan, covered it with slices of bacon and onion, covered it with tinfoil and baked it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Then I took the tin foil off and put it under the broiler for five minutes to brown it some.

How To Cook Baked Striper with Bacon and Onions

Its very simple. A filet from a three to five pound striper or hybrid is what I like. I spray a baking dish with no stick spray and lay the filet in it. I then completely cover the filet with strips of bacon. Top that with onion slices about a quarter inch thick, cover and bake. Delicious!

Cooking it that way removes the strong flavor and it is good. I usually cook potatoes au gratin and broccoli to go with it and it makes an excellent meal.

The weather is getting nice and everyone will be fishing a lot in the next few weeks. I hope you can be a good, consistent fisherman rather than a luck fisherman like me. And if fishing gives you lemons, not the fish you are after, make lemonade by cooking them in a new and different way.

How To Cook Jack Gaither’s Fish with Cheese and Wine Sauce

Jack Gaither sent me a recipe for bass filets in cheese and wine sauce I have cooked many times. It is very rich but delicious! The recipe seems complicated but it is not really difficult to cook.

All the ingredients

All the ingredients

You need the following ingredients:

bass filets – or any other mild white fish
cheese – several kinds of shredded cheese
bell peppers
sour cream
white wine

Chop filets into bitesize pieces and put in greased baking dish. Sprinkle with white wine and let sit.
Chop up an onion fairly fine – I use a medium onion if I have about a dozen filets

Chop up onions and bell peppers

Chop up onions and bell peppers

Saute Onions and Peppers

Saute Onions and Peppers

Saute the onions and peppers in a little olive oil until the onions are clear. I don’t brown them.

Melt cheese with peppers and onions

Melt cheese with peppers and onions

Add shredded cheese to the onions and peppers. I like cheddar, Mexican mix, Colby, Monterrey Jack and similar fairly mild cheeses. I do not use American cheese

Add sour cream to melted cheese

Add sour cream to melted cheese

Add sour cream to melted cheese and stir constantly to keep from sticking or burning

Add wine until the sauce is the desired thickness

Add wine until the sauce is the desired thickness

Add wine while stirring until the sauce is thick but will pour.

Pour cheese sauce over fish and bake at 300 degrees until fish is done.

I serve with broccoli – the cheese sauce is delicious on broccoli, too! And i usually make potatoes au gratin to go with it. You can bake the potatoes at the same time as the fish. Or just chop up and boil potatoes and cover them with wine sauce. Make a lot of sauce to use with side dishes!

Plate of fish and sides ready to eat

Plate of fish and sides ready to eat

I Love To Cook – and Eat!

I love to eat and love to cook, two things that go together well. This time of year we have a lot of fresh vegetables to eat or cook, making both even better. Squash are easy to grow and plentiful, and if you buy them the price is not bad right now.

Many years ago I had a lot of fresh yellow squash from my garden and wanted a different way to cook them. I like them sliced and fried or steamed with onions, and even fry the male blooms, but I had so many I need another way to cook and eat them.

This was before the internet where you can find millions of recipes fast, so I got out one of my favorite cookbooks, “Southern Country Cookbook” put out by Progressive Farmer magazine in 1972. I often refer to it and find recipes I like, even if I do change them some.

One recipe, “Skillet Dinner with Squash” caught my eye. It called for browning ground meat in bacon grease then adding chopped bell peppers, sliced squash, chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmering for 40 minutes. I decided to brown the meat with chopped onions and used canned tomatoes with jalapeno peppers.

I was not sure how it would taste, but it was great! Of course I used ground venison, not beef, and increased the amount of bell peppers. I now cook it anytime I have some squash and it is great for lunch or even dinner. For dinner I eat it with a salad.

A couple of weeks ago when my wife was out of town I went to the freezer and found a package of sliced deer liver. Linda doesn’t like it so I usually cook it when she is out of town. I love it and was real disappointed that this was the last package I had.

I floured and sautéed the liver in bacon grease along with a bunch of sliced onions. When the liver and onions browned I added water and covered it to simmer for about a half hour. While it was simmering I sliced potatoes and more onions and browned them in more bacon grease.

I always have to have a green vegetable with my meals so I got out some frozen Brussel sprouts and thawed them in the microwave, then dribbled butter over them on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven under the broiler to brown almost to the point of being blackened.

I make sure I have enough gravy in the liver pan to smother the liver and potatoes on my plate. It is a greasy meal but it taste great and I had enough for two meals.

I had made a lot of gravy so I had about two cups left. So it would not go to waste I took a package of ground venison, about a pound, and made two big hamburger steaks. I first sautéed onions in more bacon grease and fried the hamburger steaks with them, then smothered all of it with the liver gravy and simmered for about 15 minutes. With French fries and cole slaw it was another great meal!

After the Sportsman Club Bartlett’s Ferry tournament last month I kept some spots to clean. I fried some of the filets but kept about a half dozen filets from one pound bass to make a casserole. It was simple, I sliced potatoes fairly thin and layered potatoes, filets and grated cheese in a big baking dish.

After adding a little milk I baked it until the potatoes were soft, the fish done and the cheese melted. All I needed with that casserole for a meal was a salad to go with it.

Writing this made me hungry. Time to go cook something!

How To Make A Manhattan Style Fish Stew

I love any kind of fish or seafood stew or chowder. Anytime I go to a restaurant I check and order it if it is on the menu. And I make several kinds at home from the fish I catch.

I filet all my fish first. Sometimes I save the bones and little bit of remaining meat on them, especially if I am making my version of a Manhattan style fish stew. The bones give it a stronger fish flavor and make a good stock for this kind of stew.

For my Manhattan style stew, I filet about five bass and keep the filets and bones. This will make about six quarts of stew, and it freezes well. After washing carefully, I put all of the bones in an eight quart pot and cover with water, keeping the filets to the side in cold water in the refrigerator. As it starts to warm I add a few bay leaves, salt and pepper and some other spices like thyme if it sounds good. i bring this mixture to a boil and turn the heat back to barely keep it boiling until the meat is done and white and the bones have time to flavor the stock, about 30 to 45 minutes. But the time is not critical, a little longer just makes the flavor stronger.

Boil the bones to make fish stock.

Boil the bones to make fish stock.

While the stock is boiling I fry about six strips of bacon in a frying pan until they are crisp.

Fry about six strips of bacon until crisp

Fry about six strips of bacon until crisp

Remove the bacon and sautee onions in the bacon grease until slightly brown. You can skip this and add the chopped onions raw, but I like to brown mine. Chop them as coarse as you like. Sometimes I use a blender and chop them very fine, other times I just coarse chop them.

Saute onions in bacon grease

Saute onions in bacon grease

Crumble the bacon and add it to the onions for more flavor. Let it cook a few minutes then remove from heat.

Crumble the bacon and add it to the onions

Crumble the bacon and add it to the onions

Drain the broth to remove all the bones.

Strain the broth and get all the meat off the bones

Strain the broth and get all the meat off the bones

Take the meat off the bones and add that meat back to the broth. I carefully squeeze every bit of this meat to make sure there are no small bones in it.

Take the meat off the bones and add  back to the broth

Take the meat off the bones and add back to the broth

Add onions and bacon to broth as it simmers.

Add the onions and bacon to the broth

Add the onions and bacon to the broth

Cut the fish filets into chunks – I like mine about 1.5 inch squares. Add the fish to the simmering broth.

Cut the fish filets into chunks and add to the stew

Cut the fish filets into chunks and add to the stew

Add a can or two of diced tomatoes to the stew. I like to use tomatoes with chilis in them for a little kick.

Add a can or two of diced tomatoes, with or without chilis

Add a can or two of diced tomatoes, with or without chilis

I like a very tomato flavored stew, so I add a can or two of tomato soup, paste or sauce. Add enough to suit your tastes.

Add tomato sauce and or paste to flavor to what you like

Add tomato sauce and or paste to flavor to what you like

Simmer for an hour or so and it is ready to eat! For a heartier stew, add some rice to the stew and cook until the rice is done. Or for variety, cook the rice separately and spoon the stew over it. I like my stew straight and eat it with saltine crackers. I do like to add some Tabasco or other hot sauce to spice it up – sometimes I like it HOT!

Simmer for about an hour

Simmer for about an hour

How To Cook Deer Liver and Heart

I love to cook, and love deer meat, even the heart and liver. And I hate to waste anything so I take care to keep the heart and liver to cook. There is an old joke that farmers use everything from a pig except the squeal. I don’t take using deer that far, but I try to use everything I can when I kill one.

Recently I shot a deer and hit it just right, blowing out the lungs without damaging the liver or heart. I try to shoot all deer like that, without damaging any meat. When I gutted the deer I carefully washed off the heart and liver and put them in a plastic bag so I could cook them.

When I got home I washed the liver and heart again, sliced both and put them in a Ziploc bag with salt water. That pulls out a lot of the blood and I think it helps give the meat a better flavor.

Saute onions until soft and browned a little

Saute onions until soft and browned a little

The next night I got the sliced meat out and dried it, then coated the half-inch thick slices with flour. I then heated olive oil and sauteed sliced onions until they started to brown. I use a lot of onions, I really like them, too!

After the meat is brown on one side, flip it and add onions back to it

After the meat is brown on one side, flip it and add onions back to it

After the onions are soft and browned I remove them and put the floured meat into the oil. When the meat is brown on one side, I flip it and put the onions back on top. The heat should be low enough to just fry the meat and brown it. Too hot and the liver will be tough.

Add warm water to cover the meat and simmer

Add warm water to cover the meat and simmer

After the meat browns on the second side I add enough warm water to cover the meat and let it simmer at very low heat. I use a spatula to make sure I scrape all the brown crust off the pan and get it mixed with the water. Again, too high heat makes the meat tough so keep it as low as possible to keep the sauce bubbling slightly. Stir it frequently.

When the meat is just barely done and the sauce a nice brown, you are ready to eat

When the meat is just barely done and the sauce a nice brown, you are ready to eat

The sauce will be white to start but brown as it simmers. I like the meat barely done, still a little pink inside. It is more tender and moist before it gets too well done.

While the meat simmers, usually for about 30 minutes, I slice potatoes and more onions and saute them in another pan until the potatoes are soft. This is a great dish with the meat. I have a salad with it – gotta get my green veggies! In the picture below the salad is all gone! I eat it first.

Fill your plate with meat and potatoes, cover all with gravy, and eat it up!

Cover the meat and potatoes with gravy and enjoy!

Cover the meat and potatoes with gravy and enjoy!