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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Baked Panfish

It was fun and a real pleasure landing these plump pan fish which had developed a veracious appetite during one of our recent outdoor camping adventures. These were the only fish taking our bait at the time, but we did manage to catch a few dozen of 'em for the freezer.

We parked our 23' RV at Malden Lake Park located about 3 miles south of Maud, TX on Hwy 8 South.

Malden Lake Park is an excellent place to park your RV and camp. If you like friendly people and the latest improvements in park facilities with prices starting at $18 per day (half-price with a Golden Pass) and includes a spacious parking area for your RV, two vehicles and a boat – plus electricity and clean running water with trash pick-ups included, then maybe you should consider checking them out. They also have clean and well-furnished and maintained restrooms and shower facilities which meet all ADA requirements. I would recommend this place to anyone.

During this camping trip the water in the lake rose so high that we only had to walk-down a few short steps to catch our pan fish from where the RV was parked, instead of walking down the usual steep hill to the river to find them like previous times. Although we were in the mood to catch large-mouth bass and catfish, they were not as cooperative this season because of the incessant rains.

So, yesterday I prepared a few crappie and bluegills from that catch. But, this time I wanted to cook them in a different and healthier way from the old traditional method of filleting and frying (doctor's orders).

I cleaned and dressed the fish at camp (did I mention Malden Lake Park also furnishes a fish-cleaning station at each camp site?) and removed all of the fin-bones so that I could cook them whole. I don't know what it is, but there's something about cooking them whole that somehow adds another dimension to the overall flavor. I could have easily filleted them and fried them up and probably everyone at my dinner table would have been just as happy.

Nevertheless, this is a surprisingly simple way to cook crappie and bluegill. Besides, I know it came out good because all two of my guests that evening loved it so much there were none left over.

Ingredients

  • 3 large white sac-o-lais (crappie)
  • 9 plump bluegills (bull bream)
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 4 Tbs lemon juice
  • Rosemary twigs, fresh
  • Oregano twigs, fresh
  • Sliced onions
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Sliced yellow squash
  • Italian bread crumbs
  • Salt & pepper

Pat all the fish dry. Starting with the sac-o-lais cut shallow parallel slits across the skin of the fish on both sides to allow the seasonings to get through to the flesh of the fish while it is baking. Arrange the fish on a heavy metal or glass cooking platter. Sprinkle ground-up sea salt and black pepper on both sides. Next, on one side, sprinkle bread crumbs on the fish then apply a generous helping of melted butter and lemon juice to each pan fish. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes. And 'er done!

I baked the bluegills in a separate digital-timer table-top oven. I drizzled the remaining lemon-butter on top of the smaller fish (herb side up) and sandwiched them between wire racks. I set the digital timer to 15 minutes at 275 degrees F. then I turned them over once and repeated the process (another 15 minutes).

I also served oven-baked Russet potato chunks coated with a mixture of onion soup mix and olive oil, homemade Cajun tartar sauce for the pan fish, and, of course, libations were available for the spirit. The yellow squash and red tomato slices added more color to the plate and were tasty as well. I did all of this in less than an hour with plenty of time to enjoy a couple glasses of my favorite wine. I broke tradition and drank some fine Merlot (2008 ... I think it was?)

Try it! You might like it. The wine was delicious, too. Ahheee!!

KT

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