Bringing home the beach

October 26, 2015

Grouper, green beans, rice. Tasted better'n it looked.

Grouper, green beans, rice. Tasted better’n it looked.

One of the many nice things about a vacation on the beach is bringing home a cooler full of seafood to enjoy later. Which I did, courtesy of Sexton’s Seafood Market in Destin Harbor and my handy dandy Igloo. To-wit, five pounds of shrimp, two pounds of royal red shrimp, and a pound slab of grouper.

When I got home, I put the shrimp in gallon freezer bags, ran them full of water, and sealed them; those went in the freezer. (Sunday, I cooked a fair portion of ’em for the kids and me). The grouper went in the fridge and got cooked the next night.

Much as I love grouper, I’ve never tried to cook it before, so it was with a bit of trepidation that I set out. I decided to grill it, basting it with a combo of melted butter, lemon juice and Cajun seasoning.

And can I just tell you I love my GrillGrates? I didn’t even use a basket. Grilled up like a charm, stayed mostly in one piece. The lemon and butter baste was perfect — well, close to perfect; it could have been a bit more lemony. But mostly, the rich, smooth flavor of the grouper came through. Oh, my, but it was good.

To go with it, I cooked some rice pilaf, and sauteed some green beans in garlic and ginger,with sesame oil, soy sauce and mirin.

I think I’m going to investigate and see if one can successfully freeze grouper. I’m inclined to think not, since you so rarely see it in markets or on menus up this far from the ocean, which tells me it doesn’t travel well. But, oh, honey, is it good.

Shrimp, on the other hand, travel fine, limited only by how much money and how big a cooler you have. As long as you submerge them in water to freeze, you’re good to go. As noted, I boiled the biggest part of what I brought home, with potatoes and corn, for the fam Sunday. A few will be left over for a later use. The reds will be saved for shrimp imperial maybe next weekend. With their lobster-ish taste and texture, they’ll take wonderfully to a cheesy, rich imperial sauce.

The shrimp boil, conducted after church on Sunday, is a fine, fine way to feed a bunch of folks in a relatively simple fashion — as long as you have a big pot with a basket. I should have taken pix of the process, but I didn’t. Sue me.

First, one preps the water. Fill the pot a bit over half-full with water, and add twice as much Louisiana liquid crab boil and crawfish seasoning as the bottle calls for. If you like your shrimp and such more spicy, go three times as much. On no account use the amount called for; those directions are obviously written for wusses. Throw in several tablespoons of kosher salt for good measure.

Put your potatoes in first. My real preference is to use small redskins, the little creamers, but you can use larger ones and cut them in half; helps the seasoning penetrate. Put them in the basket and let them boil until they’re almost done.

Add the corn on the cob. If you use the frozen variety, it will cool off the water to the point that it will still cook, but won’t come back to a boil, until everything is just about done. At that time, pick up the basket, let the water drain out, and dump the corn and potatoes into a big baking dish. Have a sous-chef standing by to sprinkle them down with Cajun seasoning and dot the dish with pats of butter, and then cover the dish with foil

Put two halved lemons in the pot. Mine has enough room that I put them underneath the basket. Put the basket back in the pot, and put the shrimp in it.

Do not make the mistake of cooking your shrimp too long; they’ll get tough and rubbery. They’re done when the shells turn pink and the flesh turns white. If you’re boiling two or three pounds, that’s about the time it takes to come back to a boil. Drain it, and you’re ready to go.

Cocktail sauce — you can buy it, but homemade is better. Ketchup. Prepared horseradish (NOT horseradish sauce). Worcestershire. Lemon juice. Salt and pepper. Hot sauce. Play with it until it tastes to suit you.

None of us were horribly hungry, apparently. I probably have a pound and a half of cooked shrimp left. That’ll go in pad thai tonight, and shrimp and andouille gumbo that I’ll make tomorrow for later in the week. Enough shrimp left for Mr. B’s shrimp and grits some time later.

I even made hushpuppies. First time I ever made hushpuppies in my life. (I love fried things, but hate to deep-fry.) These were pretty doggoned good, but for the fact I left out the onion in deference to son-in-law’s abhorrence of onion. Next time, I’ll grate some (he’s OK on onion TASTE, just not onion TEXTURE).

So. Next time you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em go to the beach, be sure to take your cooler along. Nothing like bringing a little beach back home.






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