Grouper is one of the main types of fish that inhabit our waters here in Key West and the Florida Keys. With varieties that give us a broad range of size and in almost any environment we have to offer – from the tropical smaller leopard grouper living on our beautiful reef to the immensely huge jewfish or goliath grouper.
The black grouper and snowy grouper are the two cleaner tasting and best to eat in my opinion. Then there is the red grouper mostly found in the gulf and usually bearing parasites in the summer months when the water warms up. It would take days to go through all the different species but the bottom line is they all create a delicious meal.
I have heard many stories of the “ole timer conchs” (Key West natives) telling tales of how they would go fishing right off Simonton beach. They would sit out there with the hook and line in the water, waiting for the big one to take the bait. When they knew a fish was on the line often they had to tie it off to the back of their trucks and drag it out. The jewfish would be 200 to 300 pounds and sometimes, even larger. When they brought these fish in the whole neighborhood knew they were going to be eating good that week. These fish were also being caught off land right out of the harbor.
Not that I ever tried jewfish/goliath grouper since it has been banned from fishing due to a fear that it was near extinction. I hear it taste like the rib eye steak of the sea. Fatty, white meat that flakes up beautifully when fried. Wish I could taste it! Maybe in the future they will open a season to fish them.
Many commercial lobster fishermen claim lobster and stone crab are the basis of the goliath’s diet – and that lobsters and stone crab are being wiped out by these massive fish. Also, because they are higher up on the food chain without many natural predators their population is making a tremendous comeback.
One of the many ways I love to prepare black grouper is with a panko (Japanese bread crumbs) parmesan crust. It is a very simple dish to prepare and is delightful.
Grouper with Panko Parmesan Crust
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and mix your parmesan cheese and bread crumbs together. Season through all stages of cooking: fish, flour, eggs, and bread crumb mixture. Dredge your fish through the flour, then your egg wash and then pack down into your bread crumb mixture assuring that the whole filet is covered in bread crumbs. Heat up an oven proof sauté pan, add your clarified butter to the sauté pan then place your filet in the sauté pan. Once browned, flip then place in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the filet. Add a squeeze of key lime and enjoy.
TIP FROM THE CHEF:
If cooking is not your thing come try it out at the club at Key West Harbour and tell them Chef Martin invited you.
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