This weekend Dan and I journeyed south to Morehead City on some wedding business. It was a great weekend, full of the unexpected and a lot of fun. My two brothers, Reid and Ryan, and my father and stepmother were there the whole weekend, and Dan’s parents joined us for Saturday. On Friday we were treated to what turned out to just be a boat ride on the Tortuga, as the weather turned out to be a little much past the inlet.
Dan recently finished his open water SCUBA certification, and this weekend was his first open ocean dive. Originally we had intended to take him to the USS Indra, a landing craft repair ship that is sunk in 70 feet of water. When it started to look a little rough to go offshore, we opted for the USS Theodore Parker, a liberty ship that sits in 60 feet of water inshore. Unfortunately our boat ride ended up being a “look and see.” With three foot swells none of us wanted to try and fight to dive, and I definitely didn’t want Dan’s first NC dive to be one where he got bucked off the ladder because of rough waters.
We were all really bummed out on the way back, because there’s nothing quite as depressing as going to all the trouble to gear up and ride out there only to have to scratch the dive. However, my brother Reid saved the day by suggesting that we do a drift dive on the Beaufort Rock Jetty. Jetties aren’t necessarily my favorite dives, but in a tight spot they’re fun and most importantly they afford you the opportunity to breathe underwater, which is the main goal.
We switched over to a smaller boat and motored over there. Most people who dive the jetty drive up and carry their gear to the water, but we have a 20′ Robolo that’s the perfect size to pull up and anchor. Reid, who is my father’s first mate and a recent divemaster, was going to dive with us, but in poor DM form shook us within a few minutes of descending. Thankfully we’re fully competent and didn’t need his pretentious hovering anyway. The dive was a drift dive with 3-5 feet of visibility in 30-40 feet of water, and I had such a good time. Since we live in DC we don’t get to dive as often as we’d like, and just being underwater was good enough for us.
Dan also had a wonderful time. I keep telling him that not a lot of people would have enjoyed that dive, and even fewer would have raved about it. I could not have been happier that Dan loved North Carolina diving. I’m taking it as an incredibly good sign that he had a great time in what were pretty much the worst case scenario conditions. Usually the perpetual pessimist, he found the best in the situation, which makes me happier than I can even express. I can’t wait to show him what NC can offer on a good day.
After Reid ditched us, he speared a flounder and a small tautog. When we got home he cleaned them, breaded them, and fried them for fish sandwiches. I love flounder and this was probably as fresh as it gets. We ate that fish within two hours of spearing it, and it was completely delicious. Later in the weekend my dad made freshly caught grouper fingers, which were equally amazing.
My dad’s friend Scotty (the one he wrote a book about) turned him on to the House of Autry fish breading a few years ago, which is what my dad uses pretty exclusively on his fish these days. I meant to take a look at the ingredients, but if I had to take a guess, I would say it’s cornmeal, flour, and some spices. If you can find House of Autry, you can use that, or you could make your own breading. My dad also crumbles up some triscuits (or potato chips if you’re in a tight spot) and mixes them in for some crunch.
We ate the flounder on sandwiches with fresh tomato, salt and pepper, and a little dijonaisse (the only condiment in the refrigerator- tartar sauce would have been preferable). The grouper was cut and fried in fingers, perfect for eating alone or dipped in some dijonaisse. It combined two of my favorite southern culinary treats- tomato sandwiches and fried fish. I know that it seems insanely simple and that the foodie in me should revolt, but no food makes me close my eyes and sigh a sigh of pure happiness like fresh fish and tomato.
Fried Flounder Sandwiches
1 whole flounder, or 2 flounder filets
2 cups House of Autry seafood breader
1/2 cup crunched triscuits
1 cup peanut oil
Salt & pepper
If you’re working with a whole flounder, you want to skin and filet it.
Combine your breader with the triscuits in a bag. Throw the filets in the bag and shake until thoroughly coated.
In a large skillet, heat your peanut oil until it bubbles around the bottom of a wooden spoon, or dances when you splash water in it. These are very scientific tests, clearly.
Place your fish in the oil and cook 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. While the fish is cooking, slice the tomato, toast the rolls, and spread on some tartar sauce. When the fish is cooked, toss those on the sandwich, put your feet up on the front porch, and enjoy.