Saturday, August 25, 2012

POLITICOS HAVE STOLEN MY JOY


Yes, I know…you have to give them permission to steal your joy. Well, I haven’t given any of them permission…but…there they are…IN MY FACE!!

Right now there are hundreds of signs lining the streets I must travel…wretchedly ferocious advertising on the two TV stations I like to regularly watch just in case something has happened that I need to know about…like finding out this week that our water was possibly contaminated with e-coli. Yep. We learned of this from TV news almost a week after the test was bad. We did not get the news from our water company. How do you recall the water you’ve been drinking for a week? Unbelievable.

I don’t know what the statistics are but I am suspecting that the more vicious a politician is against his opponent the better his or her chances of winning an election. That in itself is baffling.

There is something sick about that outcome.

How can the good people of the United States of America be influenced by such irascible behavior of the politicians who seek our affirmation and expect to lead this country?

I am so disgusted with the political process that I’m ready to become an activist. Lots of people feel the way I do and just don’t vote. They give up. I want the “give ups” to get up and do something.

I value our freedom and our democracy. I value it beyond anything. I want my children, grandchildren and their children’s children to have the same freedoms.

I’ve always been neutral politically. I like to decide who I think the best candidate is that reflects what I believe should happen in our country. Then I listen and watch and read and vote.

I don’t want my vote to be a political one. I don’t want to vote against someone. I want to be able to vote for someone.

But who in "tarnation" can I vote for? They’re all spending so much money on advertising that defames their opponents. It just screams of a lack of conscience or true perception of what the American people need right now.

We do not need any more fiscally wasteful politicians in office.

Or any immoral ones.

I cannot witness such blatant abuse of the American public. Who do they think they’re “singing” to? They obviously think we’re ignorant. They must perceive us as being positively influenced by screaming, yelling, action, adventure, and mud slinging from our political candidates.

Fly your flag. Get involved to make a difference. Don’t let them treat you like idiots. Make an intelligent choice and VOTE.



Sunday, August 19, 2012

PERFECT OVEN-BAKED FISH FILLETS

FLORIDA FISHING FOR BARRACUDA, BASS AND CRAPPIE

I now understand why my Grandpa Hunt let me drive the car to Lake Osborne to go fishing.

Their winter home was in Lake Worth, Florida. I think they had it built in 1951. We visited there every Easter during the mid to late 1950s.

520 Wright Drive
On recently researching the details of that memory, I discovered that Lake Osborne was only a couple of blocks from my grandparents’ home. I thought I had driven at least five miles.

I was 10 years old.

One of the things I’ve learned from being a grandparent for the last 18 years, is that you let the grandchildren do lots of things that you wouldn’t have let your own children, their parents, do.

A particular situation comes to mind. I shocked myself that I did this.

We used to live two miles from one of our grandchildren. The road between our houses was in the country with no traffic. This particular afternoon it had rained and the air smelled and felt so clean and cool. When it rains in the Sonoran Desert, the creosote bushes offer the most divine, soft fragrance. I was taking this grandchild from her house to mine.

When she got into the truck, she asked if she could sit in the front seat. Totally against the law isn’t it? Bravely, I said that she could but she had to wear her seatbelt. Agreed. We rolled down the windows and she held her hands outside the window, feeling the cool air, exclaiming all the way the freedom she felt.

Daring wasn’t it? I feel guilty…but I’m sure she remembers it.

Grandpa Hunt was a bit more adventurous than I was. He was babysitting me while my mother and grandmother went shopping. He asked me if I’d like to go to the lake to go fishing and ride in his boat. “Sure”, I said.

As we went to the car with our fishing gear, he said, “Windy, do you want to drive the car to the lake?”

He called me “Windy”. He liked giving nicknames to his favorite girls. Mom’s name was Florence and he called her Bill.  Mom’s sister’s name was Roberta and he called her Bob. Grandpa Hunt called Grandmother Hunt…his wife… Bird. Her name was Pauline but Bird was her middle name, her Grandmother Smith’s maiden name.

I told him that I had never driven a car before. He assured me that it was easy and I would take right to it.

He adjusted the seat so that I could see over the steering wheel (I was tall for my age) and he settled into the passenger seat.

Talk about brave!! Good grief!! What a great grandpa!!!

I drove to the lake and back to the house. And, we rode in the boat and caught some nice fish…probably Largemouth Bass and Crappie.

What a super day and a cherished memory.

I don’t ever remember Grandma Hunt cooking the fish Grandpa caught. He did clean them and put them in the freezer.


I, however, have cooked many Bass and Crappie. By the way, Crappie is pronounced like crop-e…not what you’re thinking.

Here’s how:

To thaw the fish fillets if they are frozen, take off the plastic packaging and put them in a glass pan covered with plastic wrap. Then, put them in the refrigerator for several hours.

If you are leaving for the day, do this before you leave. The fish will be thawed when you get home and your prep time for dinner is only 30-40 minutes total.

Prepare them the same as Catfish if you want them fried.

To bake the fish fillets in the oven:       

You will need:

1- fish fillet for each person.
A cookie sheet
Cooking spray
Sea Salt
Pepper
Paprika
1-stick of unsalted butter
Note: Chef Paul Prudhomme's ( may he rest in peace) Seafood Magic is an excellent seasoning to sprinkle on top of each fillet before you add the butter pats.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a cookie sheet with vegetable oil.




Place fillets on the cookie sheet.

Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and paprika.

Put pieces of unsalted butter on top of the seasoned fish.




Place the cookie sheet with the fillets in the oven.

Bake small thin fillets for 15-20 minutes. Increase the time for thicker fillets to 40 minutes depending on how thick the fillets are.

My well-tested time and temperature for a fresh salmon fillet that will feed four people would be 350 degrees for 40 minutes. It works every time.

I don’t know how to cook a Barracuda but I would suggest that you be sure it’s completely dead before you try it or it could be eating you for dinner.

On one of our Florida trips, my dad dragged my mom and me out on a daylong deep-sea fishing expedition in the Atlantic Ocean. Dad snagged a Barracuda. It was so big he needed help from the crew to bring it in. About all I remember was that it was very beautiful but it had lots of threatening sharp teeth. When it opened its mouth I wondered why it hadn’t eaten the fishing pole. I had helped hold the pole before the Barracuda experience. After that, I was only an observer.

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” ~ John Buchan





Thursday, August 16, 2012

FRIED CATFISH RECIPE AND A FISH TALE




"The world's best fish cooker"...that’s what Mi Amigo Pedro calls me. He goes a little “overboard” with the praise now and then. Could his motivation be that he wants me to keep cooking for him? Hm-m-m-m.

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.” ~Doug Larson

How can you talk about summer fun and not include fishing? It is probably the least expensive outdoor activity that takes you to some of the most beautiful places on this planet.

My love affair with fishing and eating fish goes back a long way. The stories of my fishing life will be intertwined with recipes for cooking fish. There are lots of them, both stories and recipes. I’ll begin with the following:

Part I: Fish Tales

My fishing life must have started around the age of five when I got a fishing pole about the length of my arm for Christmas. At that point I never associated fishing with actually catching a fish and eating it. Fishing was just for fun.

"Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting." ~ Dave Barry

Jimmy G. and I would go to the old pond in the woods behind his house and try to catch some Bluegill. They are just the right size for five-year-olds to be hauling in. Jimmy was so gallant when it came to putting the worms on my hook and taking off the occasional fish.


We’d usually become preoccupied with the frogs and turtles and we’d end up with a washtub full of critters, including a few dead fish, to decorate Foxie’s back porch. I’m glad Jimmy didn’t trick me into capturing a Water Moccasin to put in our collection. They were plentiful at our fishin’ hole.

I’ve heard that not everybody who likes to fish also likes to eat fish. The only way I could explain that is that they haven’t ever had a fish cooked just right.

Along those lines, I don’t remember my mother ever cooking any fish except the “classical” frozen fish sticks once in awhile. So I didn’t get my “expertise” in that department from her.

My poor children…I made them suffer through frozen fish sticks too. They were always served right along side the always-appreciated Kraft dinner with a big dollop of ketchup on the plate to enhance the flavor of the not so flavorful fish stick. It was little kids’ comfort food…and still is. Holden prefers the new invention, Chicken Nuggets...thanks to McDonald's.

My first experiences with eating fish and really liking it were at the taverns along the Ohio and Wabash rivers in southern Illinois. Yes, I started going to taverns at an early age…always accompanied by my parents, of course. The taverns I remember most fondly were Margaret’s in Grayville and one in Old Shawneetown. The latter was a barnwood wreck with a creaky floor and a questionable clientele…but…oh that catfish…it was worth the risk.

We’re talking Catfish here…fried to perfection. That is Catfish with a capital “C”.

Fishermen would deliver their catch to the taverns each day. The fish fillets would be covered in some kind of light breading or crumbs and deep-fried. It was usually served with French fries, coleslaw, hush puppies and cornbread. The folks would have a beer and I would have milk. How times have changed.

Fried Catfish

The tricky part is finding good fresh catfish. Do not buy farm-raised. Somewhere I read farm-raised fish described as “marine couch potatoes who don’t get any exercise and gorge themselves on fish chow.”

If you like catfish, you probably already know where to buy it. If you don’t, take a trip to St. Louis and find an off-the-wall tavern down by the river and let them cook your catfish for you. You’ll be “hooked”.

Here’s the recipe.

You will need:

A large, heavy, preferably cast iron, skillet
Tongs or a spatula for turning the fillets
Newspaper laid out on the counter with several layers of paper towel spread over it
Plastic vegetable bag for shaking
Two pie plates

Ingredients:

2-3 pounds of catfish fillets
3-tablespoons white all-purpose flour
1-teaspoon salt
¼-teaspoon pepper
¼-teaspoon paprika
2 eggs beaten together
¼-cup whole milk
1-cup cornmeal
Oil for frying (Crisco with a little bacon grease mixed in.)

Process:

Rinse the fish fillets under cold water and pat them dry with paper towel, setting them on a cookie sheet.

Put the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika together in the plastic bag.
Shake the fillets gently in this mixture and set them back on the cookie sheet.

In one pie plate, put the beaten eggs mixed with the milk. Gently coat each fillet on both sides in the egg mixture.

Put the cornmeal in the other pie plate and coat each side of the fillets with the cornmeal.

Set the fillets back on the cookie sheet so that the coating can dry a bit.

When the oil is hot (about 375 degrees and sizzles if you drop a little water in the grease) put in the fillets.

Fry for about 4 minutes on each side. TURN ONLY ONCE. They should be golden brown and crispy when they’re cooked.

Lift them out of the grease and put them on the paper towel, on top of the newspaper, to drain.

If you have lots of fish to cook, keep them warm in a 200-degree oven.

After they have drained on the paper towel, place them on a clean cookie sheet and put them in the warming oven with a loose piece of foil across the top. If you wrap them up they will get soggy.

When leaving my hometown in 1964, I did not leave behind my love of eating catfish. On every visit after that, a Friday night dinner at the local Elks club was on my list of things I had to do. Golden brown, crispy all-you-can-eat fried catfish was served every Friday night. Maybe it still is.