Switching up the Good Friday fish vibes
Chef Jamal Small encourages people to step out of the box and comfort zone to try new seafood and methods of preparation
Whether religious or not, for Good Friday, the meal of the day involves fish rather than meat. Bahamian tradition means fish like snapper, grouper or Jack will grace many tables, coupled with hot cross buns. While Chef Jamal Small knows many Bahamians will turn to their tried and true traditions with their favorite fish of choice – “fried dry” (which he says is essentially overcooked) this year he suggests people step out of the box and their comfort zone and try new things – as far as both the seafood they incorporate into the Good Friday meal, and the method of preparation.
For Small, fish is one of his favorite ingredients to work with.
“As a chef, especially a chef that is surrounded by water, it is ideal that fish is a part of your everyday restaurant experience.”
He loves the versatility of it.
“Fish is so versatile you can make so many dishes with it, from appetizers, entrees, to amuse bouche … you can apply different techniques – there’s so much you can do with fish it’s unbelievable.”
The one pet peeve the Sysco corporate chef has is that people overcook fish.
“Cooking snappers … Jack fish fried dry, is essentially overcooking fish. Fish should not be fried dry.”
A perfectly cooked fish he says should have a crisp exterior, and flesh that is still buttery soft.
“What Bahamians do wrong is they cook fish aggressively. The hardest part of the dish is to sear on one side and cook delicately on the second side. You cook one side crisp with a good sear, and the other side basically steams. Hit it with a little butter, fresh lemon and allow the fish to lightly poach on the other side in the liquid.”
In an effort to shake up the Good Friday fish vibes and tradition, and offer Bahamians alternatives, Small provided The Nassau Guardian with three recipes that he said are totally doable for the home cook that they can add to their Good Friday menu, and that he says just may replace the ubiquitous fried fish and hot cross bun staple and that can be served across the various meals of the day – an Ultimate Bahamian Shrimp and Grits; Shrimp Laced with Conch; and Halibut en Paupiette.
His shrimp and grits are a fusion of Bahamian and Louisiana Creole cuisines, and features a peas and grits donut and is perfect for a brunch time meal.
“I knew I wanted to do shrimp and grits, and thought how I could reverse it, so it’s a crispy shrimp, reversed and seared shrimp, and I made the grits crispy. For the peas and grits donut, it’s coconut peas and grits crusted with flour, egg wash, a mixture of panko crumbs and stoneground grits, which is then fried to obtain a crisp exterior while maintaining the creamy inside.” He laces his shrimp and grits gravy with conch.
The chef also says people should not get freaked about the peas and grits donut component of the dish.
“It’s really easy, believe it or not. You make a pot of grits, and the hardest part is putting it in the mold, allowing it to cool, and you just crust and fry.”
While the halibut is an imported fish, and can be purchased at Sysco, he says this white fish is one you will want to have on your table. It’s a delicate fish, but once given the proper cooking treatment, Small said it’s a beautiful meal. He decided to give it the en paupiette treatment (grilled in a pouch) with vegetables, which he said gives it a grilled fish feel, but elegant.
“This dish is elegant, yet easy enough to feel like you can serve it in the backyard. Think of traditional grilled fish, aromatic veggies, goat pepper lime – you allow that to steam in foil pouches, and you can actually cook on the grill. Halibut is international but it’s something different to bring to the table.”
And if you must have a snapper on your table this Good Friday, he says to opt for hog snapper, which he says is a luscious, buttery fish, when prepared properly. He also likes it because he says the hog snapper absorbs citrus totally different from the others, and has a more elegant mouthfeel than the traditional snapper.
He tops his hog snapper with lump crabmeat for an Oscar-style dish that he says is an elegant dinner feel.
Small seasons the filets traditionally with pepper and salt, cayenne mix, tops it with crab and puts it in the oven with lime, butter.
“Hog snapper, paired with lump crab, lobster sauce and lobster oil – this dish is a flavor symphony.”
The chef encourages people to step out of the box, and have fun creating memorable experiences for their Good Friday meal.
“You can do traditional without traditional – just tweaking it. It’s very doable. A lot of the stuff you have in your homes.”
And to give your favorite hot cross bun a twist, he suggests giving them a smear of flavored butters. He likes a brown butter toasted coconut whipped butter, and a guava whipped butter.
Small encourages Bahamians to shake up the Bahamian tried and true Good Friday fried fish tradition.
THE ULTIMATE BAHAMIAN SHRIMP AND GRITS
Peas and Grits Donut
1 cup stoneground yellow grits
2 cups homemade vegetable stock or water
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Half medium shallot/onion, small dice
1 stalk celery, small dice
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped
½ can pigeon peas in coconut milk
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
Kosher salt to taste
¼ teaspoon Fire House goat pepper powder (or substitute with fresh goat pepper)
Method: In a sauce pot heat coconut oil to slight shimmer, sauté onion, celery and thyme until tender. Deglaze with coconut milk, allow to reduce by half. Add stock, bay leaf, pigeon peas and goat pepper, season to taste and bring to a boil. Stir in grits, allow to come to a boil stirring vigorously. Reduce to slow simmer and cook until grits are tender. Fold in butter (grits should have a creamy texture.) Place in mold and chill for minimum of three hours. Crust with the following – seasoned flour egg wash and breadcrumb yellow grits mix. Fry until golden brown in 350-degree oil. Serve hot.
Shrimp laced with conch
1-pound 16/20 shrimp, peeled and deveined (keep shells)
1 cup blanched tenderized conch
1 small onion, medium dice
2 stalk celery, medium dice
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon thyme leaves chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 cup flour, toasted until dark brown and nutty
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste
Fire House goat pepper powder, to taste (or substitute with fresh goat pepper)
4 cups shrimp stock
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Method: In heavy bottom pan, over medium heat sauté onions and celery in coconut oil. Add tomato paste and allow cook out 2 minutes before adding cooked flour. Add stock and stir to break up any lumps. Add bay leaf, thyme, goat pepper and lime. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, allow to cook for 20 minutes; season to taste. At this point sauce should have a velvety texture in the mouth. Add conch and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, you will be building flavor. In a hot sauté pan quickly cook seasoned shrimp and add to completed sauce. Allow shrimp to finish in sauce about 5 minutes this will ensure the flavors are balanced. Serve hot.
Garlic clove, whole
1 stalk celery
5 cups cold conch water (optional, it is used for optimum flavor)
1 teaspoon black peppercorn
½ fennel (optional)
½ cup white wine (optional)
Method: In a stock pot toast shells until they start to change color and perfume area. Add remaining ingredients except liquids and salt. Allow to cook 2 minutes to release natural oils in vegetables. At this point you can deglaze with white wine or add cold conch water. Bring to boil and reduce to a simmer, allow to cook minimum 30 minutes. Cool, then strain and its ready to use.
½ pound 16/20 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup heavy cream or buttermilk or evaporated milk
Salt, pepper cayenne to taste
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Oil for frying
Method: in a mixing bowl, place first 4 ingredients and allow to marinate 1 hour or overnight. In another mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and season, mix to combine then dredge the shrimp and fry in 350-degree oil for 3 minutes should be golden brown. Drain and serve as a garnish to the ultimate shrimp and grits.
HOG SNAPPER OSCAR
1-pound lump crabmeat
1cup brunoise cut carrot, celery and shallot, sautéed
¼ cup chopped parsley
½ cup favorite mayonnaise
1 teaspoon togarashi seasoning (sold at Sysco)
Juice and zest of one lemon
Salt and pepper
1 cup season Panko crumbs, toasted to golden brown
Method: combine all ingredients, season to taste and set aside. Let sit to allow flavors to bloom.
4-6 oz portion Hog Snapper fillet
Salt and pepper, goat pepper powder (or substitute with fresh goat pepper)
Fresh thyme chopped
Juice of one lemon
Method: Ensure fish is completely dry. Season and line on lined sheet pan. Place even amounts of crab on each before adding butter, olive oil, and lemon. Add ¼ cup water into the pan and roast at 325-degrees for 7 to 10 minutes. Allow to rest before plating and pairing with lobster lemon emulsion.
Lobster lemon emulsion
1 cup lobster stock
1 cup heavy reduced by half
2 Tbsp white wine
1 fresh lemon, juiced
1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 fresh lemon, zested
salt to taste
Method: Combine all ingredients in shallow saucepan and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer to reduce, about 3 minutes. Pour over fish.
Halibut en paupiette from West End
2 Tbsps sea salt
1/2 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper
4 halibut fillets
1 large sweet onion, sliced lightly sautéed
Confit peppers, garnish
Roasted potato, garnish
Cherry tomatoes, charred
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup defrosted Sysco Bahamian chef cut vegetables
Method: Rinse fillets in a bowl of salted water and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer fish to a cutting board and season with salt and scotch bonnet.
Cut 4 sheets parchment paper large enough to fold over the fish. Place a piece of parchment paper down then place vegetables; season, then place fish in the center and place butter on top. Fold the papers towards the fish to form a pocket. In a small bowl, combine lime and orange juices and pepper sauce and evenly pour over the packets of fish. Continue to fold the papers over the fish to seal together tightly (making sure no steam escapes). Place the parcels in 325-degree oven for 15 minutes. Allow to rest 2 minutes before garnishing and serving.