Category Archives: seafood

10/100: Blue Crab Stuffed Dolphin Fish

dolphin 9

In the 1950′s the men of the Hillsborough Volunteer Fire Department decided to build a house in Morehead City, a getaway from the families where they could play cards and do whatever men in the 50′s did away from their families. Man stuff. Drinking brown liquor and smoking cigars like country versions of Mad Men characters. That house (and the one that replaced it after hurricane Hazel swept through in 1954), called lovingly by our extended family as “The Cottage” has been used as a vacation house by the descendents of the firemen (all of whom are part of our extended family) in the years since it was built. Like my dad and uncle and their cousins before us, my siblings and I grew up visiting Morehead City each summer, swimming in the marsh, fishing off the pier, boating over to Shackleford and Cape Lookout, buying books and candy at City News.

EPSON MFP image

EPSON MFP image

the Hillsborough Volunteer Fire Department, 1950′s. 

The summer after my dad graduated from the University of Richmond he and his friends came down to Morehead to hang out and unwind. According to the Capt’n after waking up and seeing the house in the light of day one of his friends exclaimed “what you’ve got here is a damn swamp house.” The house, which is situated on stilts over a low salt water marsh (not a swamp), is a structure that could only have been built before the CAMA and has stood strongly up to thunderstorm after hurricane. It has, affectionately, been called the Swamp House by our family ever since (the extended family, however, maintains that it should be called The Cottage).

dolphin 19

the swamp house during a particularly high tide the week of our wedding, september 2009

dolphin 15

shackleford banks ponies

Carteret County is surrounded by Craven and Pamlico counties to the north, Hyde county to the northeast, Onslow county to the southwest, and Jones county to the northwest. Its county seat is Beaufort and it includes Cape Lookout National Seashore, Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, and the Croatan National Forest.

 

carteret

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

The Swamp House sits on Calico Creek, which feeds into Calico Bay, the Morehead City Channel, the Beaufort Inlet, and finally the Atlantic Ocean. Growing up I mucked in the marsh, water skied in Calico Bay, stalked many a pony on the Cape Lookout National Seashore, and spent countless afternoons sitting on the bow of the boat as dad made us troll through a pack of birds diving into the waters with fishing lines cast. Later, once dad and I (and eventually most of the family) completed our SCUBA certification we explored the waters inshore and offshore in a whole new way, rolling off the sides of our 20″ Robolo onto the decks of shipwrecks. In 2009 Dan and I were married in Beaufort, the town just over the bridge from Morehead City, and in 2011 my parents moved to MHC fulltime so that my dad could devote himself fully to his dive business, Tortuga Charters.

dolphin 12

dolphin 16

This is all to say that Morehead, as much as any other place in North Carolina, is dear to me. Driving into town on 1-70 still gives me a giddy feeling, even though it’s a drive I do more often now than ever before. Sitting on the back porch of the Swamp House, drinking a cocktail and shootin’ the shit, I am my most happy, my most at peace. It’s a little slice of heaven, Carteret County, which is why it was near impossible to pick one recipe, one story, one moment to encapsulate it for the Tasting North Carolina series.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

dan & i the morning of our wedding, beaufort, september 2009

In fact, I put off choosing a recipe for almost two years because the task seemed too daunting. But then, as most things do, it all came together perfectly, falling into place like the puzzles my family love to do at the Swamp House’s big family dinner table. This year we headed up to Morehead in early June for the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, an annual big game sports fishing tournament held in Morehead City. My sister Lauren and her husband Bradley came up from New Orleans and spent a few days with us in Wilmington before we all headed to Morehead for a nice long weekend.

dolphin 11

Saturday and Sunday we partook in some of our favorite Carteret County activities- floating in the waves at Radio Island, eating clam pizza at Beach Bumz, fishing and crabbing off the pier, floating on le tube in Calico Creek, grabbing a drink at Queen Anne’s Revenge (and dinner at their sister restaurant in Tight Lines in Morehead), bar crawling along the water front. It was relaxing and reminded me how lovely it can be to just unwind with family, just be together and enjoy each other’s company.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

One of the things on Bradley’s wish list for as long as we’ve known him has been a deep sea fishing trip. Growing up we used to go out fishing with Capt’n Fred, but I hadn’t been fishing offshore in years (I prefer to look at the fish through the lens of my prescription mask), so I was excited to get out there. That Monday, the first day of the Big Rock Tournament, we woke up earlier than any human should, loaded the boat up with refreshments, and headed out to catch us some dolphin fish (not the mammal; the fish often referred to as mahi is called “dolphinfish” in these parts).  It was a big day. Thanks to our guaranteed anti-seasickness formula (cold fried chicken, pickled okra, salt n’ vinegar chips, cold beer) we all fared pretty well, and we all had the opportunity to reel in a few big fish. When it was all said and done we headed home with ten good size dolphin fish and a bonito tuna (also known as a lil’ tunie, according to my dad. As in “what the hell kinda fish is that?” “well, that right there’s a lil’ tunie!”). Thanks to the Capt’n for taking us out on Tortuga and his incredible mate Randy who kicked major ass despite having a serious leg wound, we came off the boats exhausted and thrilled with our haul.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

While we were on the boat we passed the time listening to the radio station that was giving updates on the tournament. Lines went in the water at 9am (it takes about 2-3 hours to get out to where the big fish live around the Big Rock), and shortly thereafter a boat called Inspiration hooked up a marlin. All day as the announcer on the radio would give the latest and greatest they would end with “and Inspiration is still hooked up.” After hours of hearing that the boat was still hooked on the same fish, we were having a hard time believing it. They couldn’t have seriously been reeling in the same fish for 3, 4, 5 hours, could they? They could. Right after 3pm the radio crackled again to announce that Inspiration had brought a blue marlin on board that they estimated weighed 600lbs.

Dolphin Fishing from Elena Rosemond-Hoerr on Vimeo.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

After showering and getting dressed we rushed downtown to the weigh station to see this fish for ourselves. We edged our way to the front of the crowd just as they were hoisting the marlin up in the weigh station. When the number was read, nobody could believe it- the fish weighed in at 754.3 lbs. It’s hard to describe just how gigantic that fish was and what a sight it was to see in person. This was the third largest marlin ever caught in the tournament, and the largest this century. Inspiration ended up winning the tournament on the first day, with the second largest fish weighing in over a hundred and fifty pounds less than the winning fish.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

We spent a lot of time that night over dinner talking about how we would prepare our bounty of dolphin fish. Lauren and Bradley left the next morning, taking a huge bag of dolphin steaks home with them, and a few days later my brother Ryan and some friends from college joined us. One night we decided to make the meal we’d been scheming up with Lauren and Bradley- dolphin fish stuffed with the crabs Bradley had been courting off the back pier all week.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

dolphin 10

In reality, our little crab trap off the pier didn’t catch enough crab to feed all of us, so we supplemented with crab from the market. The dolphin fish, stuffed with spiced crab and roasted in a butter and wine sauce and served with cilantro lime rice and a fresh spinach salad, was the epitome of fresh local seafood. It was made even sweeter by the fact that we had caught the dolphin, walked the crab trap into the marsh, enjoyed it together at the big family table at the Swamp House that holds so many memories.

dolphin 17

me, the morning of our wedding, beaufort, september 2009

Blue Crab Stuffed Dolphin Fish
serves 4

4 dolphin steaks

2 cups crab meat

2 garlic cloves

1 stick butter

4 shallots

1 cup dry white wine

Juice of 2 lemons

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp sea salt, plus more for finishing

1 tsp black pepper

Green onions

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium low heat. Add in white wine, minced garlic, and sliced shallots. Simmer 20 minutes.

In a bowl mix together crab meat, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and lemon juice.  Mix half of butter and wine mixture into crab. Heat oven to 375F.

Cut a slit in each dolphin filet that goes down to the base but does not cut in half and transfer to a baking sheet that is at least 1″ deep. Stuff each filet with 1/4 of the crab mixture. Top fillets with remaining butter/wine mixture. Top with sliced green onions. Bake for 20 minutes or until the fish is flaky and the crab is browned. Top with fresh green onions and serve hot.

 

Charbroiled Oysters, Avery Island

charbroiled oysters 2

One of my favorite things about being a teacher is that I often hear the phrase “I am so lucky because…” My students count themselves lucky because of special trips, new toys, exciting things they get to eat, upcoming playdates… you name it. If it’s impressive to a preschooler I’ve probably heard about how lucky they are because it exists. I love that they are constantly tallying how grateful and fortunate they are, and it inspires me to count the ways in which I am fortunate. For instance, I am lucky because this blog has afforded me the opportunity to meet incredible people, travel to interesting places, and eat delicious and amazing meals. One of those such trips was my recent visit to Avery Island, Louisiana.

charbroiled oysters 9

Avery Island is the historic home of the McIlhenny family, the creators of Tabasco. Invented by Edmund McIlhenny in the late 1860′s, the McIlhenny family has built a hot sauce empire on three ingredients- tabasco peppers, Avery Island salt, and vinegar. The recipe today is identical to the recipe penned by Edmund himself, and the making of the sauce remains a truly family business. This October Tabasco flew a handful of food bloggers and recipe developers to Avery Island to learn, eat, drink, and share as a part of its annual Tabasco Tastemakers event. I was honored to be one of those bloggers that made the trip down south.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

charbroiled oysters 17

Upon our arrival on Avery Island we were brought first to the archives, where Tabasco historian Shane Bernard gave us the abbreviated history of Tabasco and showed us a peek at some of the collection he’s amassed in his nearly 15 years of service. Afterwards we were whisked up to the Marsh House, the historic Avery and McIlhenny family home. It was here where the Avery family fled during the Civil War and it was here where Edmund first concocted his hot sauce. While a fair amount of the extended McIlhenny family still lives on Avery Island, the Marsh House is now used for private family events and hosting guests such as ourselves. After unpacking, getting ourselves together, and exploring the grounds, we congregated in the main living room to meet Tony Simmons, his wife Jeanie, and a half dozen or so family members. I was taken aback when, upon entering, Tony greeted many of the food bloggers by name. This seemed to be a theme that was consistent throughout the week– everyone we met was sincere, personable, and so incredibly kind. Traits that, in my book, are as good as gold.

charbroiled oysters 11

charbroiled oysters 13

charbroiled oysters 16

This year’s Tabasco Tastemakers were, from left: Ericka, Amber, myself, Tami, Tracy, Taylor, (that’s Tony Simmons of Tabasco in the tie), Ana Sofia, Natalie, and Bren. This whole party was put together by the incredible ladies at Hunter PR, and they deserve a big kudos. 

Our first night on the island was drinks and a seafood boil, a time honored tradition throughout the South (and although my Maryland friends would be appalled at the boiling of crabs, it was delicious). The next day it was time to don our hairnets and learn about the making of the famous hot sauce, from seed to bottle. We visited the greenhouse where the pepper plants are started, all from the same seed family that Edmund procured years and years ago (origins unknown). We watched as Tony checked 100 barrels of mash (tabasco peppers + Avery Island salt), something that is done each morning. We saw where the mash is fermented in oak bourbon barrels for 3-8 years. We watched as the mash was combined with vinegar to make the final hot sauce. And we watched the sauce being dispensed into thousands of bottles each minute in the bottling factory.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

charbroiled oysters 7 After the big tour we were treated to a gumbo demonstration by Chef Sue Zemenick of Gautreau’s Restaurant. It was our second gumbo of the week, our first being the many times award winning gumbo of Avery Island’s Chef Nelson. Chef Sue and Nelson sparred as she demonstrated the perfect roux and whipped up a batch of her gumbo de herbes. Later that evening she served the gumbo topped with a deviled quail egg, followed by five more courses of mind blowingly delicious foods, all featuring Tabasco (including the dessert, which I was thoroughly impressed by).  In between Chef Sue’s demonstration and dinner, however, we had a bit of time to explore the bayous around Avery Island in my now preferred means of transportation- airboat. It may be loud, but it is fun as all get out.

charbroiled oysters 15

charbroiled oysters 19

charbroiled oysters 22

charbroiled oysters 20

charbroiled oysters 21

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Our third day on Avery Island was probably my favorite. This day began with the grand tour of Avery Island, as given by Dave, who should probably be their mascot. Dave worked for McIlhenny Company for decades, was raised on Avery Island, and even though he retired years ago continues to help the McIlhenny family sell the Tabasco charm. He reminded me of my grandpa, if a little less Irish and a little more Cajun. Dave showed us around the island, driving us past everything from the salt mines to Tony Simmon’s house (shhhhhhhh), and ending in Bird City, an egret reserve founded by E.A. McIlhenny as a way to help save the snowy egret population. Afterwards we headed back to Marsh House for a hot sauce tasting with Tony and Charlie Cheng, the scientist and flavor developer behind many of Tabasco’s sauces. It was fascinating to hear the CEO and lead recipe developer talk candidly about what had worked, what had failed, what needs tweaking, and what is on the docket. For lunch we were treated to Bon Creole in New Iberia for boudain and bowfin caviar, a Louisiana specialty. Afterwards we headed into back to the Marsh House kitchen for a cocktail and mixology demonstration by Kirk Espinotal, a man who mixes drinks with more flair than anyone I’ve ever seen. Kirk made three cocktails with us (it was a very interactive workshop, which was highly appreciated), my favorite of which was The Awakening, a twist on the Pimm’s Cup and a Tequila Sunrise. That night for dinner we headed in to town to Cafe Des Amis, which was a treat particularly because it was the first opportunity that week for a big fat salad.

charbroiled oysters 6

charbroiled oysters 25

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

The next morning, much to my dismay, it was time to head back to reality. After packing our bags (and a final breakfast with Stanley) we headed into town for one last trip- a visit to Legnon’s Boucherie to watch them make their famous boudin. Boudin, which my brother in law Bradley is kind enough to bring to every holiday gathering, is a mixture of cooked sausage, rice, vegetables, and spices that is stuffed in sausage casings and served hot. After watching in awe as they worked through dozens of links of sausage we headed into a back room to watch them make cracklin, something I have long loved but never seen made. Having acquired that experience, I’m pretty sure I’m okay leaving this one to the experts.

charbroiled oysters 4 After sweet goodbyes to new friends we split into small groups based on travel arrangements and headed to the airport. Even now, weeks later, a smile comes to my face when I think about this trip. It’s rare to have an experience that so perfectly blends business and pleasure, and I continue to be impressed that Tabasco, Hunter PR, and the McIlhenny Company were able to put together such a memorable week. I came away from this not only a lifelong Tabasco customer (I already was one, so this is just a bonus), but thoroughly blown away by how the McIlhenny Company operates. I was afforded much more than a glimpse of the company, and I am so grateful that the family opened themselves up to us in such a unique way. It was absolutely a trip of a lifetime.

charbroiled oysters 5

charbroiled oysters 3

This past week we were invited to no less than five oyster related events, which to me signals the beginning of the holiday season. And while I firmly believe that in these parts oysters are best in the coldest months, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try my hand at one of the recipes I enjoyed on Avery Island. Nelson’s charbroiled oysters were spicy, buttery, and fantastic, something I’ve been dreaming about since I returned. My best imitation of his masterpiece involved butter (of course), parmesan, white cheddar, garlic, French bread, chipotle, and Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce. They were exactly what I was hoping for, a recipe that I’ll be rolling out frequently from now until the waters are warm again.

charbroiled oysters 1

This post is sponsored by Tabasco. The words, thoughts, and opinions are my own. Don’t miss our first post featuring Tabasco sauce- Honey Chipotle Wings.

Charbroiled Oysters

2 dozen oysters, fresh & raw

1 stick butter

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 cup cubed stale French bread

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup Cheddar cheese

1 tsp chipotle powder

1 tsp salt

1 lemon

Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce to serve

In a skillet melt butter. Roughly chop garlic and add to pan, along with hot sauce. Simmer over low heat.

In a food processor combine bread, cheese, and spices. Pulse until you have created bread crumbs.

Using a shucking knife, halve oysters. Heat grill to 400F and lay oysters on a baking sheet or plate. Spoon a tbsp of the butter mixture into each oyster shell. Top with a tbsp of the breadcrumb mixture. Transfer shells to the grill and charbroil with the lid closed for 5-7 minutes or until the oysters are bubbling. Drizzle with lemon juice and garlic pepper sauce. Serve hot on the half shell.

charbroiled oysters 10

Tangy Grouper Salad

grouper salad 6

Last weekend I headed up to Morehead City for a photoshoot. I’ve been doing a lot of photoshoots lately, totally booked solid, which is amazing. Amazing and also a little disorienting because I can’t for the life of me tell you what month it is, let alone what day. For the first time in my life I’m excited for the slow melancholy of January. A trip to Carteret County also means the opportunity to visit with the parents who are the bests hosts because they’re always willing to have us, they always have wine, and they usually send us home with fish. This trip it was a cooler full of freshly caught grouper.

grouper salad 5

In addition to raw grouper steaks for grilling (yum), the Capt’n packed us a container of cooked pulled grouper, ready to be tossed into grouper salad. So when I got home and was putting together food for the week I mixed the grouper with a bit of mayonnaise, a cubed red pepper, spices, and a few spoonfuls of chow chow. The finished salad was light and tangy, full of flavor and a quick and easy lunch.

grouper salad 3

This salad could work with pretty much any combination of shredded fish, fresh vegetables, fermented vegetables, mayonnaise, sour cream, or yogurt, and spices. I loved the way the chow chow lent a sweet and spicy flavor with a punch of apple cider vinegar, but I’m also thinking of doing a salmon, kimchi, and snow peas twist.

grouper salad 2

This weekend we headed to Bald Head Island to celebrate our anniversary. Today I leave for Louisiana, and then when I get back we head to Maryland for a wedding. Later this month I’ll be in Durham, New York, and Lake Waccamaw. Tomorrow this blog will mark 5 years in existence. As I look back on the past five years, I can’t help but to be amazed at how far we’ve come. How far I’ve come as a writer and photographer, how far I’ve come in the kitchen and as a recipe developer, how far Dan and I have come together, how many recipes have been posted (more than 350!). It’s been an incredible run, and I feel so excited for what is to come as I look out over the next few months and the next few years. Thanks for being here for the ride!

grouper salad

 

Tangy Grouper Salad

4 cups shredded grouper

1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise or Greek yogurt (to taste)

1 red bell pepper

1 red onion

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

Dash of garlic powder

3 generous spoonfuls of chow chow

Chop vegetables. Mix with fish, spices, chow chow, and mayo. Adjust spices and mayo to taste. For a creamier salad, pulse in food processor until blended. Serve chilled with crackers.