Thursday, August 7, 2014

Getting the most out of bream, a little fighter who can be quite tasty!


(Joe's bream)

I know this site is dedicated to the preparation of international food, but the U.S. South is also part of the world so it’s justifiable to look occasionally in our backyard to find something exotic in the familiar for our dinner tables!

My wife Suzanne, an international auditor for her firm, is traveling this week in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where she found “the best BBQ ribs” she’s ever eaten (that’s saying a lot for a part-time Memphian!) at a restaurant called Castell BBQ. I kept the home fires burning here in Oxford, Mississippi, by going out in the backyard one evening and fishing in our pond. The pond is full of bream and bass, and my luck was with the bream. I made the commitment that this time I was going to catch ‘em, clean ‘em, cook ‘em, and consume ‘em that evening!

Like many or even most Southerners, I grew up catching and eating bream. My father Roger Burton Atkins and my brother John and I would go to all the local ponds my cousins owned out on their tobacco farms in central North Carolina (we lived in town). It’s the most humble of fish, but it makes for great sport. It will fight you ever step of the way toward your water bucket! It’s also a bony fish and requires some extra care in preparation for dinner.

(To the right is our pond)

After catching and cleaning my fish, and then cleaning myself up for a night of cooking and eating, I got my oven ready at 400 degrees F., and prepared to bake my fish in aluminum foil. With the fish went a healthy dash of extra virgin olive oil—Olive Taggiasche—a little butter, garlic, and sliced onions.

An old newspaper (Jackson, Miss., Clarion Ledger) clipping dating back to the 1990s has been so helpful to me in finding just the right rub to use with the meat or fish that I cook. With fish, the clipping suggests—and this is what I mostly did—the rub should include single teaspoons of basil, garlic powder, tarragon, and paprika, a couple teaspoons of black pepper and lemon zest (I simply squeezed a fresh lemon onto the fish), half-teaspoons of cayenne pepper and salt.

Into the oven they went, where they stayed for roughly 15 minutes. Out they came and joined the asparagus, yellow rice, and rolls that I’d prepared. A little bourbon & branch water on the side, and I was good to go!

It was delicious!

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