One of our goals in the coming year as we travel is to find local specialties and convert them into both gluten-free and when possible, healthier meals. While on the Gulf Coast over Christmas, we got to eat quite a bit of seafood and it was delicious. Almost every restaurant we went to offered a sailor’s platter, captain’s platter, or even an admiral’s platter. The more expensive the restaurant, the higher the rank of the platter!
Unfortunately, finding gluten-free fried fish was not possible in the Fort Myer’s area. If you know of someplace, comment below because we’re going back next year and want to check it out.
After our last fishing misadventure, we decided to try again. Michelle’s requirement was that we spent some of our time fishing and some of our time searching for dolphin and manatee. Captain John at Conway Charters did not disappoint. After meeting him at a local marina, he took us out on his boat to search the canals and creeks for some manatee. With his knowledge, it didn’t take to long and our first goal was checked off with this 6-8 foot long male manatee.
Next goal our list: catch some fish. We didn’t have much luck on this day – the fish just weren’t biting. We did manage to bring in two sheepsheads, and as they say, any day on the water is a good day. We did complete our third goal also, seeing some dolphin on our return to the marina, but enough about that, let’s cook up some fish!
Luckily for me, Captain John filleted the fish we caught. If you’re not lucky enough to have fresh fish, look for a firm fish that has thicker fillets at the store. Cod works well, as would catfish. You will need about a quarter pound per person and about the same amount of peeled, deveined shrimp. You could also look for clams, scallops, or any other seafood that looks good at the store.
Begin by preparing you breading station. In a bowl, combine about one cup of half and half with two teaspoons apple cider vinegar and stir well. The vinegar will curdle the milk and create buttermilk after sitting for about ten minutes. In another bowl, you will need about two cups of cornbread mix such as Krusteaz Honey Cornbread. In the final bowl, combine 1 cup of gluten-free flour blend with 2 teaspoons of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. If you don’t like things too spicy you could use Old Bay instead. If you want some extra kick, add a little hot sauce to the buttermilk. Make sure that the seafood is mostly dry. I put it in the fridge uncovered for about thirty minutes while I was getting everything else ready to go.
Pour about 3-4 inches of canola or peanut oil into a deep pot and heat over high heat until the oil reaches 265º. You want to keep the oil between 265º-300º while you are cooking. If the oil is too cool the breading will soak up too much oil and get soggy; too hot and things will burn before they cook through. Continuously monitor the oil temperature and adjust the heat accordingly.
Toss several pieces of fish into the flour mixture to coat and set on the edges of the bowl with your right hand (this is your “dry hand” and should only go into the two flour bowls). Using your left hand (the “wet hand” that should only go into the buttermilk bowl), drag the fish one piece at a time through the buttermilk and set them into the cornmeal bowl. Using your right hand, bury the pieces of fish under the cornmeal.
I know, I’m using the wrong hand in the buttermilk in the photo above. Trust me, you will make less of a mess if you keep one hand dry and the other wet, but it can be difficult in the heat of the moment! Carefully place pieces of fish into the hot oil by holding them just into the oil and releasing so that you don’t splash oil. The oil should bubble but not pot. If at any point the oil is smoking, it is too hot. If you get a lot of popping, the fish is too wet.
Once you have about 5-6 pieces of fish in the pot, begin the process again with the next batch. The fish should cook 5-6 minutes until it reaches your desired color. Remove the fish from the oil and place onto a cooling rack placed over a cookie sheet so the excess oil can drain off. Check your oil temperature and continue until you run out of seafood.
BONUS: take the remain cornmeal mixture and add the remaining milk to it along with 1/4 cup of finely diced onion. Stir together and add more half and half until you get a thick spoonable batter. Drop teaspoons of batter into the oil to make hushpuppies!
Once all of the seafood is cooked prepared, make your dipping sauces. For tartar sauce, combine 1 cup of mayo with 2 tablespoons of pickle relish and a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice. For the shrimp, I like a sweet chili sauce using 1/2 cup of sweet and sour sauce combined with a tablespoon of hot chili paste (from the Thai aisle at the store). For traditional cocktail sauce, use 1/2 cup of chili sauce (usually near the seafood) combined with 1-2 teaspoons of ground horseradish from the condiment aisle. Be careful with store bought cocktail sauces, some have soy sauce added and are not gluten-free!
We almost never eat fried food, but it is a nice treat from time to time and I was surprised at how little oil was actually absorbed into the food. I used a whole bottle of oil to cook and when I was done and poured the cooled oil back into the bottle to throw away (never reuse oil that you’ve cooked fish in) there was only about an inch missing from the bottle, and part of that was on the bottom of the cookie sheet that I had used as a drip pan.
We served our Cruiser’s Platter with coleslaw and a glass of Pine Island Breeze. What’s your favorite seafood treat or side dish? Leave us a comment below and let us know!
Cruiser’s Platter (Gluten-free Fried Shrimp and Fish) with Hushpuppies and dipping suaces
For the seafood:
- 1/4 pound per person of assorted seafood such as cod, peeled shrimp, scallops, etc.
- 1 c half and half
- 2 t apple cider vinegar
- 1 box of Krusteaz Gluten-free Honey Cornbread mix
- 1 c Gluten-free Flour blend
- 2 t Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning (or similar)
- canola or peanut oil
- 1/4 c finely diced onion
For the dipping sauces
- 1/2 c mayo
- 2 T sweet pickle relish
- 1/2 t lemon juice
- 1/2 c sweet and sour sauce
- 1 T hot chili paste
- 1/2 c chili sauce
- 1-2 t ground horseradish
Lay out the seafood on plates and refrigerate without covering so that it dries out a bit.
Begin by combining half and half with vinegar to let it curdle. Prepare the remaining breading stations by pouring cornmeal mix in one bowl and combining flour and seasoning in another. Meanwhile heat oil to 365º.
Dip pieces of seafood into flour, shake off, drag through buttermilk, and cover with cornmeal. Carefully lower each piece into the oil without splashing. Cook 5-6 pieces at a time for about 5 minutes or until the desired color has been reached.
Combine remaining cornmeal mix with onion and remaining buttermilk. Add more half and half if needed to create a spoonable batter. Drop by the teaspoonful into the oil to make hushpuppies.
For tartar sauce, combine 1 cup of mayo with 2 tablespoons of pickle relish and a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice. For the sweet chili sauce, combine sweet and sour sauce with hot chili paste. For traditional cocktail sauce, add ground horseradish to the chili sauce.