Fish 2 Ways - Swampy's Kitchen Blog at - 195296

Swampy's Kitchen

Fish 2 Ways 
Sep. 14, 2010 3:51 pm 
Updated: Sep. 21, 2010 5:31 am
On a recent Saturday night, fish was on the menu at our house. It just wasn’t quite the way I had envisioned it all when I first started planning out the dinner. But first, let’s take a little look at what transpired in the past that helped to create this fishy tale.

For years I have played the old “Daddy is allergic to cats” card to avoid a cat and my wife has always said that a dog will come after she gets the kids trained & housebroken. I grew up in a house where my mother was legitimately allergic to pet dander so the only pet I ever knew was a goldfish and we had plenty of those. So when my wife got all excited about the clownfish in the pet shop right after school ended, I said to myself “What could it hurt ?” The answer to that question turned out to be the first three clownfish that came into our house in a triumphant fashion and then left the house in a circular fashion. Soon after, my wife & kids finally figured out the key to actually keeping fish alive and all seemed right in the world.

In the meantime, my garden had taken off only to be frazzled by a heat wave & blight so that one of the only crops I had left were my mutant big heads of red cabbage. Now I don’t have a lot of recipes for red cabbage and I would love for anyone & everyone to suggest one but whenever I have red cabbage, I think of this recipe

(yes, a little self serving but sometimes you need to blow your own horn)

And whenever I do make this coleslaw, my wife wants Fish Tacos.

You won’t hear a complaint out of me in that regard because I love Fish Tacos. I will order them in various restaurants to see how everyone makes them so I can incorporate the good into my fish tacos at home. So it was decided that we would have fish tacos for dinner and I set about the tedious chore of slicing the veggies for the coleslaw. About halfway through my chopping & slicing there was a knock at the window. The guy who was supposed to deliver a truckload of firewood in the morning had finally shown up. I showed him where to dump the wood and I went back inside to get his cash. When I came back out I discovered that his idea of where I said to dump the wood was as a different from my idea as a Jackson Pollack painting is from a single straight black line. Rather than have to deal with this walking disaster any further, I paid him and set to work clearing enough of the wood out of the driveway so I could get my car out of the garage without having to shift into 4wheel drive. This meant I would have to pull off the fish tacos in a Chopped amount of time but I was up to the task and got to work chucking wood like a woodchuck chucked.

While all this was going on, my wife and kids had decided to transfer their fish from the dirty 6 gallon plastic fish tank to the sparkling new 10 gallon glass fish tank they had bought earlier in the day. Now why this became a battle of near epic proportions can be left to future historians but it is safe to say that the fish didn’t want to go. First off the kids tried to catch the fish with empty cups because it would stress out the fish far less than the net would. Of course this exercise in futility began to stress my wife far more than it would have had they used the net but eventually the 3 fish and the 3 hermit crabs were captured and transferred to their mid-station homes. At least this time my daughter remembered to cover the bowl so the fish wouldn’t jump out like happened the last time she changed the water. Now began the transfer of water and the addition of the small amount of saltwater that they had on hand. I won’t point out that I was dismissed when I pointed out that 6 gallons of water really wasn’t going to fill a 10 gallon tank but what did I know ? Of course it was at this point that it was noticed that maybe they didn’t have enough water for the transfer. The clock was ticking not only on the hours of the Pet Shop but also on the fish & crabs in the bowls. A decision was made to get the heater & filter going in the new tank and  then head out quickly for another jug of saltwater. Silly me took this time to actually finish with the wood pile and come back into the house.

I quietly snipped out the plastic cutouts for the filter with my clippers when asked and continued to quietly observe from behind my cutting board. I had chopped the cabbage, the peppers, the onions and carrots and had begun mixing the vinaigrette when I was asked to see if I could get the filter to work. I came over and asked for the directions only to be told that there weren’t any in the box. A warning light when off in my head but I foolishly ignored it when I asked the rhetorical question that should have stayed embedded in my head. When I was able to move again, I found video directions & a printout on the internet but they might have been written & filmed in Sanskrit because what looked so easy on the computer was impossible in real life. (I did think about calling MythBusters) The clocks were still ticking and the dinner hour was sliding further up the scale when my wife & kids barreled out the door with busted filter in hand in search of saltwater & a filter that actually worked. Suddenly all was quiet in the house. Well all was quiet except for the click click click of the hermit crabs scrabbling for a hold on the bottom of the small metal mixing bowl they were currently inhabiting.

The pet shop is only one town over so I set my mental timer at 30 minutes for the exchange & return of the family and went back to work on preparing the fish tacos & sides. I got the Grouper fillets out of the fridge and opened them up to let them breathe a little. I quickly shucked the corn we had grabbed at the local farmer’s market and tossed it into a pot of soon to be boiling water. Then I grabbed a large oven safe stainless steel and tossed in some butter and a mango vinaigrette that I had picked up Whole Foods a while back. Looking around I also saw a lonely green onion so I chopped that up as thinly as I possibly could, tossed it into the pan and started to melt & mix the flavors. I then set the oven to bake at 400 as my plan was to give the grouper a quick sear in the butter mango sauce and then bake it. I have found that this helps to make the fish a little firmer for the nice flaky chunks I like in my fish tacos. I had just started to toss the coleslaw again when…

*bzzt*bzzt* BING !

What the hell was that I thought ?


Oh yeah, I had set my blackberry to LOUD instead of it’s perpetual vibrate so I wouldn’t miss the call or email from the wayward wood guy earlier in the day. I grabbed my blackberry and there was this message:

“Pet shop closed. Headed to Petco by Home Depot.”

I turned off the burner under the large oven safe stainless steel pan and swirled the melted butter mango combo around so that it covered every inch. I knew that this second pet store pit stop was going to add another 20 to 30 minutes to their trip so there was no purpose to cooking the fish yet. I set the table and tossed the coleslaw again and decided that it needed some zing. I added a few extra drops of hot sauce, some red Hawaiian sea salt (one of my 3 go to items in the kitchen) and the juice & zest of a single key lime. Awesome aroma by the way. I also broke out my Spice Grinder and hit the grouper fillets with a nice dusting. I turned the corn down and started to set the table.

*bzzt*bzzt* BING !

“Petco didn’t have what we needed so we are at Pet Supply”

What ? A third pet shop I thought to myself. This did however put them closer to home so turned the burner back on under the oven safe stainless steel pan and began to plan my attack. I was a little annoyed the my wife hadn’t made her guacamole before she left but she did say that she would do it and for me not to worry. The two avocadoes sat on the counter mocking me as I went about getting the fish ready. I could see that that butter mango combo had gotten nice & hot so I lay the first sizzling fillet down in the pan. The other two fillets fit perfectly and I could smell the sizzle as I flipped them for a quick turn. Seconds later I tossed them into the oven with a flourish. I had just turned to get out the tortillas when…

*bzzt*bzzt* BING !

“We have to go back to PetSmart. Pet Supply didn’t have what we needed. Are my fish still alive ?”

I looked down into my favorite pancake batter mixing bowl and counted 3 fish alive & moving. I looked down into the metal mixing bowl next to it and counted 3 crabs click click clicking and responded yes and asked if I should make the guacamole. No answer.

I wasn’t going to stop the fish at this point and now it had become all about salvaging what I could out of the meal. I checked my blackberry again just in case I had somehow missed another message. Nothing. So I quickly scooped out the avocadoes, threw in some tomatoes, red onion, sour cream & key lime juice with some salt & pepper. (I know, no jalapenos but not all the kids eat spicy yet) While I let those flavors mix & meld I pulled the grouper fillets out of the oven. They were perfect - flaky, hot, nice golden crisp from the butter mango combo – I spooned some of the sauce over them and then covered the pan and set it to rest on the stove top. This was the best they were going to get so I turned on the stove top griddle and tossed some tortillas on to warm. If they came in the door in a few minutes (and they should) dinner would be saved.

*bzzzt*bzzzt* BING !

“Just leaving. Mommy says make the guacamole and even though she won’t ask for it, she needs a margarita.”

So did I but I quit drinking 22 years ago. Oh well. This meant they would be home in 15 minutes I hoped. The fish would be warm and not quite as crisp but it could still work. So I began plating everything but the fish and everything was in place when the whirlwind blew in through back door. Dinner was ignored as was I as they started to complain about the fact that there wasn’t a single store out of the four they went to that could help them with the filter or sell them a replacement that would fit their tank. They did get the saltwater they needed but they had decided to forget the new 10 gallon tank and return it all the next day. Of course that meant they needed to reactivate & clean the dirty 6 gallon plastic tank and put the fish back into it. It was at that point that I looked at my rapidly cooling not crispy or flaky anymore fish and the rest of my dinner and felt like the stereotypical housewife (sorry ladies) who’s husband keeps saying he will be home for dinner and doesn’t show up. I hit the roof and said at the top of my lungs, “WHAT ABOUT THE DINNER THAT I FIXED ? CAN’T YOUR FISH WAIT ANOTHER 45 MINUTES ?”

The fish tacos, while being a bit on the cool side, were actually really tasty and just before I took my long awaited first bite my daughter looked at me and asked “Daddy, don’t you feel guilty about eating fish tacos in front of the fish ?”

“Nope.” I responded with a large CHOMP.
Come back next time when we talk about overrated restaurants and the people who overrate them.
Sep. 14, 2010 4:46 pm
Yup! I understand! Nuff said.
Sep. 14, 2010 7:38 pm
Great blog! Too funny!
Sep. 14, 2010 8:27 pm
Thanks Mike
Sep. 14, 2010 8:27 pm
Thanks Nurse Ellen - it would have been funnier if it didn't happen to me
Sep. 15, 2010 6:42 am
Great writing, Doug. I love it when I leave a blog with a smile on my face!
Sep. 15, 2010 7:01 am
Thanks Lace - it was fun to write too
Sep. 15, 2010 7:52 am
I loved the line about leaving in a circular fashion. too funny! your blogs are always so interesting and very easy to ready, i cant wait until the next one!
Sep. 15, 2010 2:42 pm
Great story!! Guilty, no way !! Yummy, all the way!! I hope everyone else enjoyed dinner. Can't wait for the next one.
Sep. 15, 2010 5:08 pm
Hey starryeyed3 - thanks for reading not only this blog but the others as well
Sep. 15, 2010 5:28 pm
I don't think I would have felt guilty even if I had tossed Nemo into a tortilla
Sep. 16, 2010 11:38 am
Love your blogs Doug! Great sense of humor. I always look forward to the next one!!Ginny
Sep. 16, 2010 3:22 pm
Thanks Ginny - I am glad you stopped by
Sep. 17, 2010 1:28 pm
Love, love your writing!! I can so relate. Only with beta fish, instead of clownfish. And the wood delivery? Yup, my hubby ordered wood a couple of weeks ago, dumped 3 cords in the driveway. Hey, it only took us 4 hours to move it to the back! (did I mention it was 95 out that day?) But I didn't get fish tacos for dinner, no fair :(
Sep. 18, 2010 7:12 am
Thanks Jammin' Bread - at least you had help with the wood. I had to haul it all myself.
Sep. 21, 2010 12:45 am
Superbly written & superbly entertaining! I had a funny experience reading this though. I am in such a hurry that I read the 1st paragraph, scanned & saw "Colorful Coleslaw", "Fish Tacos" (oh how I love both!), scrolled down, saw it was a long blog, was going to read it later but then I saw the 1st "*bzzt*bzzt* BING !" - that made me curious so I read more but not 100% thoroughly ~ like I missed the words grouper & fillet. At the 3rd "*bzzt*bzzt* BING !", I was reading 98% of the text - & the image I had in my mind of what you were doing to your family's pet fish to turn them into dinner was disturbing! " "...Are my fish still alive ?” I looked down into my favorite pancake batter mixing bowl and counted 3 fish alive & moving. I looked down into the metal mixing bowl next to it and counted 3 crabs click click clicking and responded yes"!! Think about it: I know your children have pet fish, & I know you're making fish tacos, which are commonly battered before cooking...! LOL! I HAD to go back to the top & read it thoroughly! So much for trying to save time! My 2 favorite lines: "...Mommy says make the guacamole and even though she won’t ask for it, she needs a margarita,” & “Daddy, don’t you feel guilty about eating fish tacos in front of the fish ?” !!
Sep. 21, 2010 5:31 am
I can see where you could get that idea about me cooking up Spotty, Speedy & Pickles - I might have if they were a little bigger. Glad you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks
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Doug Matthews

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Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Living In
Mendham, New Jersey, USA

Member Since
Mar. 2000

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About Me
My mother decided early on that her sons would never have to rely on someone to feed them so we all learned to cook at an early age. I really started to branch out when I moved out west to Denver, SF & Dallas. Combine that with extended business travel to Louisiana & my growing love of spices and you get a real mix of flavors.
My favorite things to cook
Love to make cajun food with my favorites being crawfish pie, alligator stew & alligator chili - I go nuts on Super Bowl Sunday
My favorite family cooking traditions
We didn't have a lot of traditions per se but you could count on pancakes or waffles on sundays - dad making scrambled eggs twice a year on christmas morning & mother's day - veal parmagiana on christmas eve, Thanksgiving with Grandma Matthews and any menu of your choice on your birthday. We weren't a spicy family so I learned a lot of good strong basics in the kitchen from Mom that I have carried over into my cooking today.
My cooking triumphs
I love to experiment with variations of dishes I try around the country. My biggest success is here on allrecipes where I had 2 recipes published in the same cookbook - Southwestern Turkey Soup & Curried Carrot Soup. I think my corn muffins are a great starting point and my alligator chili has become a much requested Super Bowl favorite.
My cooking tragedies
There have been a few times in the past where I tossed everything and took everyone to a restaurant instead. I'm not too proud to say my cooking is awful when it really is.
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