Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday night seafood

New Orleans is a Catholic city. Having grown up in a predominately Protestant town, I knew there were Catholics, but they didn't stand out in any way, except going to Church on Saturday in order to not have to deal with the rush of Baptist and Methodist, to the local buffet after Church on Sunday. I grew up coming home from Church on Sunday to the smell of Sunday Dinner, provided either by my mother or my grandmother, Gran Gran. Sunday dinner is something that has been lost on today's hurried family life.

After moving to New Orleans and getting married, I soon found out how deep the Catholic traditions would bleed into the culture of the city. Friday nights were always seafood night. This is a hold over from the days when Catholics didn't eat meat on Fridays. This is why McDonald's created the fish sandwich. Although my in-laws were life long Methodist, we always went out to eat seafood on Friday nights. Seafood restaurants have lines of people waiting for tables on Friday night. In my logical way of thinking, I always thought we should wait until Saturday night to eat seafood therefore avoid the long wait for food. I don't like to wait for food. As it may, now when I ask my wife what she wants for dinner on Friday nights it is invariable seafood.

This Friday I went to Tarpon Dock seafood at the foot of the Tarpon Dock bridge, were they have the freshest seafood in town. The shrimp, snapper, grouper, and crab cakes looked great, so I chose a pound of 21-25 count headless shrimp, a small grouper fillet, and two crab cakes. The crab cakes were pan roasted, meaning they were sauteed in a cast iron skillet and when turned, they were placed in a 350 degree oven to finish cooking. The shrimp and grouper were fried. Seafood screams to be fried. The contrast of crispy outer crust and soft firm interior is a classic. Although frying can be daunting for some it really is easy if you follow some simple rules. Always have your oil or shortening hot. Remember when you put the seafood in the fryer the temperature will drop, so heat the oil above your target temperature of 350 to 375 before dropping the seafood. Cut your fish into small pieces so the fish will cook before the crust get over cooks. Always allow your breaded seafood to rest so the coating will have time to set on the seafood. I prefer Zatarain's seafood fry. I also use an egg and milk wash so the coating will have something to hold onto. I use two cups of milk, two eggs, and a good tablespoon of yellow mustard as my wash. You can add a couple of drops of Tabasco, if you like thing spicy. This Friday I served the seafood with some homemade mac and cheese. I used some smoked Gouda in the mac and cheese to give it a surprising smoky flavor. My wife would be mad at me if I served fried seafood with out my tarter sauce. Mayo, dill relish, green onions, capers, and lemon juice is all it takes. My wife actually makes her own sauce. She mixes my tarter sauce with ketchup. She's been doing that since she was a child.

Well I hope you will honor your food traditions and keep them alive.

Happy cooking.

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