fish sandwich

WaterLine photo by Chef Tim Spain

Would you like fries with that? Yes — yes you would.

Last week I was sitting on the dock at Whidden’s Marina talking to Wayne. I told him I wanted a black drum and he said that someone had told him there was a big school of black drum in the Harbor. I figured he’d would have probably told me where if I’d asked. I didn’t ask because I knew I wouldn’t have time to go hunt them anyway.

My neighbors said that they had caught a couple from the dock recently, so I asked some friends over to fish with me, to see if we can find some around my dock too. I think a black drum just over the slot is the perfect eating size.

The slot limit is 14 to 24 inches, with a bag limit of five. One of your five can be over 24 inches. There are also a few other rules involved when harvesting black drum. On page xx, you will find a fishing rules and regulations section and the other rules are listed there. Don’t be a poacher. Also, why would anyone ever want to upset a perfectly happy FWC officer?

I knew if my friends and I weren’t able to harvest a drum from my dock, I could always ask one of the local fish mongers for one.

When I take a drum for the table, I want it to still have bars on the sides. By the time bigger fish lose those stripes, they tend to be course in texture and usually are a host to spaghetti worms. All the big ones are good for is bragging about, so take a good photo to send in to WaterLine Magazine (who knows, it may make the cover), then release that big fish strong and healthy.

My friends and I fished hard, but failed. I will never be disappointed with an attempt to catch a fish that ends in failure. That’s just fishing. I think each of us who fish on a regular has a memory of efforts that were made to have a great fishing experience that ended in failure. Who cares? Laugh with your friends and have a good time.

I fish because I love nature and the challenge of blending into nature at just the right time to fool a fish into picking up my bait. When I fish my dock, I do it like I would hunt in a deer stand. Every noise matters. Bait bucket lids closing hard can spook the game that is already nervous after feeling the vibrations I created walking down to the dock and getting set up to fish quietly.

But while my friends and I were out there on my dock, quiet wasn’t a consideration. We laughed, told fish tales, drank some fine bourbon and retired to my lanai to enjoy some ribs and a good bottle of cabernet from Washington state. I wrote about those ribs a couple columns back. I did the same recipe. If it ain’t broke, I ain’t fixin’ it.

We weren’t able to hook up with an eating-sized drum ,or any drum at all. But for some inexplicable reason, we laughed and laughed even louder as the evening progressed.

Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.

Black Drum Sandwich

4 5-ounce boneless skinless black drum fillets

1 cup egg wash

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup flour, divided

1/2 cup cornmeal

2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp each cayenne, paprika, white pepper and black pepper

1/2 tsp each dry mustard, onion powder, dried oregano, cumin and garlic powder

1/2 cup Sriracha

1 cup mayo

4 hamburger buns

8 slices ripe tomato

4 lettuce leaves

Heat about a quarter-inch of cooking oil in a cast iron skillet. Keep an eye on it; don’t let it smoke. While it’s heating, divide the flour in half and set one half aside. Now mix half the flour together with all the other dried ingredients. Dip each fillet in buttermilk and dredge in plain flour. Dip each fillet in egg wash, then dredge in the seasoned corn meal/flour mixture. Carefully place them in your heated oil and fry until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Mix Sriracha and mayo together to make a sauce. Spread sauce on buns, top with the fillets, lettuce and tomatoes, and serve. Serves 4.

— Recipe by Chef Tim Spain, ChefTimSpain.com

Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.

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