How to Be an Oak Island Gourmet
Story By Brian L. Lichorowic
I have to believe that there are many others like me. Those of us who vacation at Oak Islandcome not just for the beach and solitude but also for the food. And I’m talking about the food that can be made by your own hand.
When my wife and I are looking to lease an oceanfront vacation dwelling, the one prominent thing we look for is a decent, well-provisioned kitchen. We’ve all had our “vakay benders” where the dominant food group is beer accompanied by pizza and the occasional turkey sub. But now I’m an adult, or at least I pretend to be, and it doesn’t take a Julia Child wannabe to acknowledge the tremendous quality and quantity of fresh seafood available on the island all the year round. Throw in a couple of fresh farm stands and a pretty good supermarket that will provide you with all the accoutrements you need and you can go five stars in an instant. This combined with OKI’s wonderful views, and sunsets that would make Monet blush, and it’s pretty easy to live — and eat — like a king here.
Haag & Sons Seafood is my primary seafood source on Oak Island. Jon Haag, the owner and fishmonger extraordinaire, has been in the seafood industry here in the Carolinas for more than 26 years, with this current location on Oak Island being open for over 13 years. Over time we’ve become great friends. I’ve found his knowledge of local seafood and seafood in general unsurpassed.
Jon eats fish, nothing but fish, for his three squares, and he eats all parts of the fish. If that isn’t the best quality control on the planet, I don’t know what is. His employees call him a “human hermit crab.”
“Jon eats everything fish and I mean everything,” one employee tells me with a scrunched-up nose added for effect.
Jon is committed to providing his customers with the freshest product possible as well as to educating them. You’ve got to love a guy who labels his displayed shrimp inventory as “Not So Large,” “Somewhat Larger,” “Pretty Large” and “Even Larger.”
I started my latest fish feast by downing nine dozen clams just to get my motor running. From there we started on the week’s seafood specials, the recipes of which I’ve shared with you here. I hope you like these recipes.
Broiled Giggin’ Carolina Flounder with Parmesan Lather Crust
If you have a good German Alsace wine you’ve been saving…now’s the time! Flounder gigging is done at night in shallow waters. Fishermen use a flashlight in shallow water so they can see the flounder swimming on the bottom. The “giggin” part comes in when they spot a nicely sized flounder and use a trident spear, stabbing straight down. A successful gig captures the fish without much fight.
3 lbs. Flounder, or 6 whole fillets
1/3 cup Low-fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated one with good pomposity
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbs. Chervil
1 Tbs. Fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. Prepared horseradish
Preheat the broiler and prepare the broiler pan with nonstick pan spray. Arrange the fish on the broiler pan. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, Parmesan, mustard, lemon juice, and horseradish. Whisk well and lather the mixture over both sides of the fillets.
Broil about 8 inches from the heat (not on the top rack!) for about 6 minutes or until the fish f lakes easily with a fork. A brown crust will form on both sides. Serve with fresh greens and a nice fresh vegetable.
Haag’s Original Oak Island Grouper Kapoooni
Jon Haag shared with me this original recipe about seven years ago. I’ve made it several times and each time it’s a showstopper. If you love fish with a tropical nuance, this is your dish.
2-3 lbs. Fresh grouper (thick fillets)
1 package Grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 Mango, diced
1/2 Fresh pineapple, cut into small chunks
1 can Mandarin oranges
1/2 lg. Red onion, roughly chopped
Combine all marinade ingredients. Place fish, marinade and all other ingredients in large plastic bag or covered dish and store in the refrigerator for two to three hours. Remove and place in glass baking dish. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and more chopped cilantro or fresh chopped mint.
1/4 cup Soy sauce
2 Tbs. Dark sesame oil
2 Tbs. Rice vinegar
1 Tbs. Garlic, minced
1 Tbs. Ginger, minced
2 Tbs. Scallion, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch Cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 to 1 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh Carolina Shrimp Scampi
This is timeless Italian, easy to make and well received by all parties, including kids. Given the quality of the local shrimp it’s a no-brainer.
1 1/2 lbs . Shrimp, “Even Larger” size, shelled & deveined
2 Tbs. Unsalted butter
2 tsp. Garlic minced
¼ cup Dry white wine
1 Tbs. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tsp. Fl at- leaf parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup Olive oil
1/4 tsp. Grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the shrimp on a large pie pan or plate and pat them completely dry with a paper towel. A r range the shrimp so they lay f lat and are evenly spaced. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. When the butter’s foaming subsides, raise the heat to high, and invert the plate of shrimp over the pan so the shrimp fall into the pa n all at once. Cook the shrimp, without moving them, for 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Turn the shrimp over and cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl.
Return the skillet to the heat and pour in the white wine and lemon juice. Boil the liquid until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir the olive oil, zest and parsley into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the shrimp, season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine.
Divide the shrimp among four plates or arrange on a platter and serve.
Oak Island Triggerfish with Classic Beurre Blanc Sauce
Triggerfish, a light white fish that is caught in abundance around the Carolina coast, is an unknown jewel.
4 fresh triggerfish fillets (8 oz. or bigger)
Beurre Blanc Sauce
1 to 2 Shallots, chopped f ine
8 oz. White wine
2 oz. Lemon juice
2 Tbs. Heavy cream
12 Tbs. Cold unsalted butter, cubed
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Combine the shallots, white wine and lemon juice in a nonreactive saucepan over high heat and reduce to 2 tablespoons.
Add the cream to the reduction. Once the liquid bubbles, reduce the heat to low. Add the butter, one cube at a time, whisking first on the heat and then of f the heat. Continue whisking butter into the reduction until the mixture is fully emulsified and has reached a rich sauce consistency. Season with salt and white pepper. Set aside and keep warm until ready to serve.
Preheat oven to 350°. In a baking dish or roasting pan large enough to hold the fish, melt 2 Tbs. of butter and place the fish in the baking dish. Raise the heat and cook for about 5 minutes until it is golden brown. Carefully turn over the fish and brown the other side. Bake uncovered in the middle of the oven for 5 minutes or until fish feels firm when pressed lightly with a finger. Spoon Beurre Blanc sauce over fish.