Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Sheepshead Curry

This recipe is totally something that I created on the spot.  It is an experimental dish (and, as such, it needs refinement).  As we were standing in the fish market near our Outer Banks vacation house, I saw that there were sheepshead fillets. Those fillets got me thinking about the sheepshead dish -- Sauteed Sheepshead - Savage Boleks' Style -- that I made with Clare's father during our vacation in Orange Beach, Alabama.  The chance encounter with a fish that was the basis of a great cooking experience with my father-in-law got me to thinking about making another dish for my in-laws.  

The chance encounter with Sheepshead was not really much of a chance.  Sheepshead can be found in the saltwater and brackish waters of the Tar Heel State (such as those around the Outer Banks). They usually swim around wharves, pilings, shipwrecks and other structures covered by barnacles, oysters and mussels, all of which constitute the diet of the fish.  Sheepshead often are a challenge to catch, because they can take the bait off the hook very quickly. Therefore, fishermen and anglers have to be resourceful, using different methods -- such as hand lines, cane pols and spinning tackle -- to catch the fish.  

Needless to say, I did not have to worry about catching the fish this time.  Instead, I had to think about how I would prepare the dish.  The one dish that I wanted to make during this trip was a fish curry.  Up until the point at which I saw the Sheepshead, I had not been able to prepare that dish.  Now was the time.  I decided to go with a (relatively) dry curry, focusing on the spices, over a wet curry, where the focus would be on the sauce.  The spice mix was truly an experiment, beginning with the base of ground garlic and ginger, with ground onion.  After making the base, I then cardamom, allspice, cloves and nutmeg.  These spices created a "heat" that was not capsicum based.  I the adjusted the seasoning with salt and black pepper and, my curried sheepshead was ready for the pan. 

As I cooked this dish, I decided to add a little liquid -- 1 cup of beer and 1 cup of water -- to help with the cooking process.  The beer did not really create a sauce that could be served with the fish, which kept the curry on the dry side.  Once the fish was cooked, it was served over rice with a little of the liquid (solely to flavor the rice) with a garnish of cilantro and lime juice.

As I mentioned at the outset, this is an experimental dish.  It needs refinement, but I decided to post it anyway because -- quite frankly -- I don't come across Sheepshead very often and so I wanted to put down my thoughts.  With this recipe, I can go back to it in the future to improve upon it.  All part of the creative process, which, in this case, resulted in a pretty tasty dish.  Maybe the next version will be a wet curry with a sauce.  We will see .... 


SHEEPSHEAD CURRY
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 pound of sheepshead fillets, cut into 2 inch chunks
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground garlic
1 teaspoon ground onion
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 lime juiced
2 cups jasmine or basmati rice, cooked
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of water
1 cup of lager beer

Directions:
1.  Prepare the curry marinade.  Add the ground ginger, ground garlic,  ground onion, ground cardamom, ground cloves, ground allspice, ground nutmeg, salt and black pepper to a small bowl.  Mix thoroughly.  Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a bowl.  Add the sheepshead to the bowl and coat with the olive oil.  Add the curry spice mix and coat the fish on all sides.

2.  Saute the onions and garlic.  Heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil over high heat.  Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 to 2 minutes more.  Lower the heat, add the fish and stir quickly for 1 minute.  Add the beer and water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the fish is cooked through about 5 to 7 minutes.

3.  Plate the dish.  Plate about 1/2 cup of rice on the plate.  Add the fish and curry sauce over the rice.  Garnish with lime juice and cilantro.

ENJOY!

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