By Vernon Summerlin
I’m originally from L.A. (old joke about Lower Alabama). During my L.A. fishing days from the 40s to 60s, I didn’t know many fish species because I just fished farm ponds. I knew green trout (largemouth bass), bream and catfish. At that time I hadn’t even seen a crappie. I’d been ignorant and missing some fantastic fishing for nearly a quarter of a century but as soon as I moved to Tennessee after college I started making up for lost time. Now I know Alabama has incredible crappie fishing, as well as many other game fish species.
Soon the big reservoirs in Middle Tennessee become my second home. One day fishing from the bank below Cheatham Dam near Ashland City, Tenn. I hooked my first walleye casting a Hellbender. I landed two in short order but I gave those toothy things away because they looked way too ugly to eat. Boy, was I wrong.
A few years later I moved to Minnesota to work at Mayo Clinic for a few years. When I lived there I learned about walleye and other species. It was then that I started collecting fish and game recipes. The following recipe came from a fishing buddy’s wife. It was originally meant for cooking walleyes but I found it lends itself very well to the fine flesh of crappies.
Crappie with Rice Stuffing
1 6-ounce package wild and long grain rice mix
1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)
1/2 cups chopped celery
2 tablespoons butter
1 2-ounce jar drained sliced pimientos
1/8 teaspoon ground sage
2- to 2 1/2-pounds crappie fillets (or walleye)
Prepare rice as directed on package, adding bouillon granules to water. Set aside. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease broiler pan or 13×9-inch baking pan. In a small skillet, cook and stir mushrooms and celery in butter over medium heat until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in pimiento and sage. Stir vegetables into rice. Place fish on broiler pan. Stuff with rice mixture, placing any extra stuffing around fish. Cover rice only with foil. Bake until fish flake easily at backbone, 20 to 25 minutes.
Try this apple-raisin whole wheat stuffing in a turkey, chicken, Cornish game hen, pea fowl, pheasant or crow (well, maybe not a crow but a suitable bird of your choice).
12 cups cubed whole wheat bread
1 1/2 cups raisins
4 chopped unpeeled apples
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
4 cups thinly sliced celery
3 eggs (or egg whites)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
If the bread is not stale, spread the slices out on a rack or counter for 1/2 day to dry and then cut into cubes. Combine the bread cubes with raisins, apples, onion, celery, eggs, walnuts or pecans, butter, chicken broth, and black pepper. Stuff the bird or bake stuffing in a covered oven-proof dish for about 40 minutes at 325 (or whatever temperature you are using for your bird).
Option: Put into Crockpot and cook on high for 2 hours then low for 4 hours.
To make more use of this recipe, fill quails, doves, rails, snipes or other small birds with this tasty stuff.