Fish-n-Foil Italian Style
by Vernon Summerlin
It is easy to zest up your crappie for grilling, just by adding Italian dressing. If you cook on a grill, you may want to baste your fish every two minutes to prevent it from drying out. If you choose to use the fish-n-foil method to cook crappie and veggies (think easy and clean) there is no need to baste your fish.
- 1-1/2 pounds crappie fillets
- 1 cup Italian dressing
- 2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 each red and green bell pepper, each cut into 6 pieces
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (freshly grated is better)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
Mix dressing and crushed red pepper. Pour over crappie fillets and sliced peppers in shallow glass dish; turn fish and peppers over to coat both sides of each with dressing mixture. Refrigerate 15 minutes to marinate.* Heat grill to medium-high heat. Remove fish and peppers from marinade; discard marinade.
Grill fish and peppers on covered grill about 4 minutes and turn fish over. Grill covered for 2 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Place fish and peppers on serving plate. Sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Let stand 3 minutes.
Foil Packet Grilling: This method is terrific for cooking a delicate fish, such as crappie. This is also a great way to cook an entire meal, because you can cover the fish with vegetables. Place your fish (and any veggies you want to cook) on a piece of foil, then bend the foil over top and seal all the sides by folding them over several times. Fish-n-Foil marries the flavors of the fish, spices and veggies. Medium-high heat cooking this way will also keep the grill clean.
Personal Touch: I imagine the flavors and textures of the veggies and how they will blend with crappies. You can call me an “eye-ball cook” because I rarely measure; I let my imagination “say when” (like I’m thinking with my taste buds). I add whatever veggie or fruit (even bacon crumbs) that comes to mind. Sometimes my imagination leads me astray but I eat it anyway.
*To Marinate or Not: I don’t think crappie fillets need to be marinated but thick, fish steaks or fillets (like bass, catfish, stripers or saltwater fish) may taste better when marinated with a simple mix of oil, vinegar and spices (dry soup spices work well). If you’re cooking a drier kind of fish, the marinade makes it juicier.
With thick chunks of fish, I like it to coat the steaks or fillets with mayonnaise, sprinkle with a salt, pepper and spices, and then slap it on a hot grill. I let it sear for a few minutes on one side, baste and turn it sideways for those pretty grill marks and then flip it over until it’s done.
Before cooking oily fish like trout, salmon or thick saltwater species, dry them thoroughly with paper towels. Add a little bit of flavored butter or olive oil and sear them. Add a sauce or other condiments just before or after the fish comes off the grill.
General Cooking Tips for the Grill: The basic rule is to cook fish 6 to 8 minutes per inch of thickness or 10 minutes per inch if the fish is whole. Baste every couple of minutes to prevent drying and be sure to put the grill cover back on. Check fish two minutes before you think it should be done, keeping in mind that everything keeps cooking for a few minutes after it leaves the grill. Fish is best when it just starts to flake with a fork. Undercooked fish looks translucent and overcooked fish looks dry and falls apart.
Keeping it Safe: Never refreeze fish once it’s been thawed. Store in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped or in an airtight container, for no more than 2 to 3 days. Fresher is mo’ better!
Dessert: Poached Apples
- 5 cooking apples
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 5 to 6 drops red food coloring (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon extract
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Pare the apples and cut them in half crosswise. Pick out seeds, but do not core. Make a syrup of sugar, water, salt, food coloring, cinnamon extract, nutmeg extract and vanilla in a large skillet and bring to a boil. Stir in the apples and simmer until tender, watching carefully, lest they will get too tender all at once. If nutmeg and cinnamon flavoring extracts are not obtainable, use the same amounts of the dry spices; mix with 1 cup sugar before adding to water.