Monday, July 6, 2009

Holy Mackerel, it's the Fourth of July!

We did some fishing on the Santa Cruz Wharf here in California last week. I froze the Mackerel and single Perch when we got home, since there was not time to cook them prior to the beginning of my work week. I am away from home during my three or four day week, alternating. It is a strange schedule.

So, before I got home the fish were put in the refrigerator to thaw. Thursday I went out and got some fish baskets to use to grill the fish, and got set up to cook when my son-in-law got home from work. He and I went together on the fishing trip, and it was a meal for us to share.

I popped the fish in the baskets and set them on the grill. I had prepared a full starting chimney of Kingsford charcoal and set it up in the fire box of my Char-Broil Silver Smoker. I was using the fire box as a grill for this one. The coals were free of flame and had an even heat.

This was my first attempt at direct grilling fish. They cooked rather quickly, being rather small and the fire being perhaps a bit hot. It was no more than two minutes to a side and they were about done. I gave the Perch a bit more time, but it was only a matter of seconds.

The fish turned out rather nicely. I had done no seasoning since I wanted to experience the flavors unaltered. We are not big fish eaters in our household. None of us had experienced Mackerel before, and most of us were also new to Perch.

I liked both fish. The Mackerel, being small, were hard to eat without getting some bones. The Perch was a bit easier to eat. Most of the family found them too "fishey." I had expected them both to be a bit stronger, actually.

I look forward to catching more Perch and Mackerel, since they are common to our wharf. I suspect I will be eating the larger fish and devoting the rest to serving as bait. I will continue to fish in hope of the rare Halibut or some other special treat, but surely won't be disappointed by a nice mess of Mackerel or Perch.

Two days later and I am grilling again. The Fourth of July! Family and food! Hot dogs and hamburgers, with all of the trimmings and traditional sides. Potato Salad, beans, chips and more. The hot dogs were from Costco, as were the frozen burgers. The dogs cooked up nice in the main cooking chamber. The burgers were pretty good, as well.

The burgers I tossed on frozen. Once the juices were flowing on the top of the burger I gave them a flip. I liked the well-shaped patty, and the flat surfaces rather than the thick lumps most home made burgers have. However, the flavor proved rather monochromatic. It was a burger, but just a burger.

The main cooking chamber has a greater distance between the coals and the cooking surface. I used the firebox as a place to keep the starter chimney going. Prior to cooking I laid out a layer of charcoal in the cooking chamber. I then got a chimney of charcoal going. Once it was well started I moved most of the coals over onto the unlit charcoal in the cooking chamber.

I left a few hot coals in the chimney. To this I added enough charcoal to fill the chimney. In short order I had plenty of hot coals to add to the fire, as required. I kept cooking as long as people kept eating. When necessary I pulled either the left or right grate, loaded in coals, and dropped the grate back in place. I really love my cooking gloves for this. Lodge brand, in my case. With reasonable care I can handle some pretty hot stuff with these gloves.

Today I just fired up a double handful of charcoal in my chimney. Once they were started I popped the grate from the fire box on top of the chimney and cooked a burger right there. This worked fine, but I think I would add another hand full of charcoal next time. I was getting workable heat, but a little more would have been nice.

So, a week of lots of cooking, and some new experiences. It was fun, and tasty!

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