"Fridays Always Lead the way to Sundays"
1 Corinthians 10:31 - “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.
Despite the world's, mine included, absolutely fragile faith
based on all that is happening right now, I still believe as a Christian, that the symbolism of this weekend is more important now than ever. It is for that reason and to break the painful monotony of the gloom all around, that I share this post with everyone. Despite having prepared this for the local Guardian Food section some weeks ago, I am not amending it as a sign of my Faith in Our Tomorrows!
I’m going to risk it and say that Jesus was the first “Celebrity Foodie” of note! With more than 25 “Posts” (okay, Biblical references) of eating in The New Testament, including having fed over 5,000 men, I would say that the Savior certainly qualifies for that culinary title in my book.
By now if you follow me on Instagram (@simeonhalljr)or visit my recipe blog on www.simeonhalljr.com you should know the basics of fish preparation, but allow me to quickly reiterate them here.
1. Buy quality fresh fish! Look for bright clear eyes, red slick gills, unbroken, unbruised skin. Remember fish should not smell FISHY but like saltwater!
2. Support your local day boat fisherman that practices sustainable, environmentally-sound fishing techniques. My go-to fisherman is “Mr. Yellow” on the Montagu Beach ramp in the most eastern stall. Tell him Chef Simeon sent you!
3. Keep the preparation simple. Chopped bird or goat peppers, sea salt, and local limes. Dat’s it!
4. Use a “seasoned” cast iron skillet and Crisco™ shortening. My grandmother did that. Her mother and grandmother did it, so why mess with what works? Cast iron skillets keep even temperatures for a long period and help with even frying.
5. Be creative with your toppings, sides and plan ahead.
6. Frying fish indoors does a number to your olfactory senses. Try to set up shop outside or curate a custom blend of strong potpourri that you can “boil” to combat the scents. I usually boil a pot of Christmas spices on full blast before, during and after frying fish.
I could go on forever with tips, but I’m going to scale back and dive into the recipes.
For this publication, I want to steer you into amping up your tried and tested family fried fish recipe. Whether you prefer your fish fried dry or moist, these recipes will take your Good Friday Fish Fry to the next level. You may even find your dishes being shared on Instagram!
Bahamian Fish Seasoning
The Perfect Pickles
Okay, I promise this is the last diversion from “the meat” of this meal, but allow me to describe the fascination of Fried Dry Fish and even why as an Executive Chef I struggle to get cooks to prepare fish properly in The Bahamas. The simple truth is that this style of preparing seafood and fish go back as far as the indigenous Taino people in The Bahamas. “Fry Dry” - with the addition of acid in the form of early rudimentary kinds of vinegar and later citrus brought over by the early travelers - is indeed a preservation method. Overcooking, aka “Fry Dry”, removes a high amount of moisture from the fillets of fish which is essentially the same as you would do in drying fish, conch, and other meats in the sun. The addition of an acidic ingredient slows down the growth of bacteria. In the absence of refrigeration, this was a go-to method for Bahamian cooks in the past. So, in other words, “Fry Dry is in us!”
Bahamian Fish Seasoning
I’ve added this recipe to this publication because chopped salt and pepper are uniquely Bahamian. I’ve travelled and cooked all throughout the Caribbean, Asia, the USA, and Europe and I’ve yet to see anyone else season fish quite as we Bahamians do. Simple as it is, this method and combination are “The Junkanoo” of the culinary world.
1 cup sea salt
5 bird peppers
1 goat pepper
On a clean cutting board, chop the pepper and salt together into a “mash”. Add more salt or fewer peppers based on your flavor preference.
Chimichurri is a herbaceous condiment that has Spanish origins. My research has not shown any connection to The Bahamas, but I love this versatile dressing. Smear it over a portion of fish and enjoy it.
½ lb hand-chopped Italian or Curley leaf parsley
6 oz chopped garlic
10 oz vegetable oil
10 oz lite olive oil
3 oz red wine vinegar
1 oz balsamic vinegar
1 oz sugar
1.5oz sea salt
1/2 oz fresh black pepper
1 oz dried oregano
1/2 oz red chili flakes (I use 1 oz to make it a bit spicier)
Gently combine all the ingredients and reserve for 24 hrs before serving. I only hand chop the ingredients for a true sauce and not an emulsified dressing you will get using a food processor.
This is perfect for any protein and vegetable as a topping or side condiment.
Drive to West Grand Bahama and you’d be insulting a roadside Chef by asking them to hold the pancakes with your fried fish! First, it’s “pannycakes” and secondly, pannycakes are to fried fish what Jesus was to the Cross. (Well metaphorically speaking of course!) Literally it is that sacred and revered in that northern Bahamian community. And only because My father, The Bishop, has roots there have I been granted permission to print this recipe after approval by the Kitchen Elders and Scribes!
This recipe can also be modified to become breakfast pancakes very easily.
1 cup A.P. flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar ( add ¼ cup sugar for sweet breakfast pancakes)
1 whole egg
1 cup cold whole milk
½ cup melted butter
¼ cup Crisco Shortening for frying (Although truthfully, I fry my pannycakes in the same oil that I use to fry my fish. Is it taboo to request 1 cup of fish grease for frying the pannycakes?)
Combine the wet and dry ingredients separately. Then slowly incorporate. Usually, I would advise you not to overmix, but these pancakes are usually a bit more glutenous or “tough” than normal. This helps to give them the bite that marries well with fried fish. Allow it to sit for about 15 minutes at room temperature to hydrate the flour and activate the baking powder.
In a hot skillet with the fish grease barely coating the bottom of the skillet, drop muffin size circles of batter. Fry until the batter bubbles around the edge. Then flip. Cook until a toothpick slides out cleanly. Serve as needed.
I have an infinitude of respect for pickled dishes; I think they are the perfect touch to most dishes. I often reminisce how my Aunt Carol would always serve a side of fresh, farmer’s market pickled beets with every Sunday meal - and to me, that was the coupe de grace to the meal. More so, this simple accouterment can be made far in advance.
Sunday Beets (substitute any firm vegetable)
2 lbs red beets, skin on and washed well
1 cup beet liquid (poaching liquid if you substitute other vegetables)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp allspice
½ red onion sliced thin
½ cup white sugar
½ tsp pickling spice
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large pot, cover the beets with distilled water. Add the pickling spices. Cook until knife tender. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Reserve 1 cup of the beet juice. As hot as you can handle, take a clean kitchen towel and wipe away the skin. Section the beets in quarters or cut into rounds if you prefer.
Add the sugar to the beet liquid to dissolve it. Cool to room temperature. Then add the vinegar and remaining ingredients, including the beets. Beets are best when prepared at least the night before. Make it a family project!
In our region, escovitch is mostly associated with Jamaican cuisine. However, most cultures have a spicy-sour condiment used as an add on to many things. Consider this my fusion version of an escovitch dish.
1 cup distilled water
1 cup white vinegar
½ lb local yellow onions
½ lb sliced carrots
2 cloves of garlic
2 twigs of fresh thyme
1 tbsp allspice
2 goat peppers
A pinch of sugar
A dash of salt
Add the water, vinegar, and allspice and bring to a boil and bring to room temperature. Add the remaining ingredients and steep for at least 2 hours. Top your fish and serve.