I’ve got two motives for this post. First, our good friend, Trace, celebrated a milestone birthday and we went to Key West to celebrate. More on that in a minute. Second, this dish is my feeble attempt at lightening up our diet between the Thanksgiving food orgy and impending holiday parties and Christmas feast. One light meal is better than none, right? Ok, I said it was a feeble attempt.
A few weeks ago, Trace’s partner, David, rented a house in Key West and invited several friends to spend the weekend and to surprise Trace. David planned several activities for the trip, one of which was a deep sea fishing trip. Neither Jim nor I had ever experienced a trip like this and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the weekend.
Captain Chuck, a gruff, weathered, and chain-smoking professional fisherman, both entertained us and kept us in line as we pulled in fish after fish. To be sure, hooking a fish produces quite an adrenaline rush as you’re reeling in the line, putting on a belt, and getting the rod in the cup of the belt all at the same time. As we struggled to pull in a large fish, Captain Chuck barked orders and chastised us for any misstep. His motives were good despite his rough-around-the-edges manner.
The weather cooperated beautifully for our adventure. Pictured above are from left, David, me, Jim, and Trace.
Unfortunately, we had a shark problem at one of the locations and all the big fish that I hooked served as bait for the shark. Here I am reeling in a big one.
Jim hooked a nurse shark and worked hard for 10 to 15 minutes to reel it in only for Captain Chuck to cut it loose.
Here’s David proudly displaying the mutton snapper that he snagged.
The birthday boy got his wish and reeled in a 13-pound grouper!
The day ended with a catch of two 12 to 13-pound mutton snappers, a 13-pound grouper, and 10 to 15 yellowtail snappers. Captain Chuck fileted the fish and sent us on our way with dinner for the evening and plenty of fish to ship back to Atlanta.
Extra virgin olive oil
4 6-ounce red snapper filets (tilapia, grouper, or mahi mahi can be substituted)
Salt and pepper
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup good quality white wine
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons capers
Fennel fronds, for garnish
1. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Season fish with salt and pepper. Add filets to the pan and sear for about four minutes on each side or until fish flakes when a knife is inserted. Remove from pan and set aside.
2. While fish is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in another skillet. Add fennel, shallots, and garlic and saute for three to four minutes or until almost tender. Add tomatoes, wine, salt and pepper to taste, red pepper flakes and capers. Continue cooking for three to four minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Divide fennel mixture between four plates. Top each plate with a fish filet. Garnish with fennel fronds and serve immediately
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