Phil's International Flair

Welcome to the August issue of Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair! This month's theme is seafood. This is the time of year where anglers can go camping, catch trout or bass, or venture to a local lake or beach to fish for salmon, stripers or any other type of fish that can be obtained locally. Even kids can get in on the action by going to a local stream or lake to catch crayfish for a great snack or dinner.

Included this month are some of my favorite recipes for fresh fish and even frozen fish.

The recipes presented this month are but a small yet diverse collection of the recipes in my yet to be published book, Phil's Family and Friends Cookbook. Feel free to email me at with your comments and requests. Be well, and good eating!

Now, on to the recipes!

Seafood Surprise

Abalone Supreme

Abalone is becoming a rare delicacy these days with the populations of animals dwindling severely. However, should you happen to be a diver or live near the Pacific Ocean, you may have the opportunity to harvest some of these sea snails for yourself. Sometimes, seafood markets can special order abalone for you, however if you purchase prepared abalone steaks, be prepared to pay nearly $100 per pound for them!

Abalone is a very rich meat, and when prepared properly is very tender and succulent. Be warned not to cook abalone too much, or over too high a temperature. If you do not heed this warning, the result will be similar to the soles of a tennis shoe. This easy to make mistake has resulted in many disappointed seafood aficionados, and many a good wasted dollar.

Should you happen upon abalone which is still in the shell, here are the instructions for preparing them for cooking: Remove the meat from the shell with your hands by prying the meat away from the shell. With enough force, the meat will simply break loose from the shell. Remove the gonads with a knife and trim the tough edges away with a knife. Reserve the trimmings for chowder. Lay the foot on a cutting board and slice the foot of the abalone horizontally into 3/8" thick steaks using a sharp knife. Now take a large mallet and hit each of the steaks once on each side very sharply. Do not pound it to mush in an attempt to tenderize it and do not use a tenderizing mallet that will cut into the meat. The idea here is to "shock" the fibers of the meat into relaxing. One sharp smack with a mallet will do the task quite adequately. Now the steaks are ready for cooking.

Some prefer to bread the steaks before cooking. I prefer not to do this. However, if you prefer them breaded, I suggest Ritz Cracker crumbs, saltines, or very lightly seasoned bread crumbs. Abalone has a very delicate flavor that should not be overpowered with too many seasonings. Abalone prepared in this manner is guaranteed to be so tender that you can easily cut it with a fork.

  • 2 abalone steaks
  • butter

Melt the butter over low temperature in a skillet. Do not heat the butter to the point of browning. Place the steaks into the butter and simmer for 20 to 30 seconds each side. Remove and serve promptly.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 2 minutes

Beer Batter Salmon Sticks

This is a recipe of my own creation, but I have seen similar preparations in a few restaurants. When catching my own salmon, I usually reserve the tail section for making this recipe, as the tail section is easy to fillet into boneless pieces of the appropriate size. Trout fillets may also be prepared in this manner.
  • 1 lb. salmon fillet, sliced into strips about 4 inches long and half inch thick

Beer batter consisting of the following:

  • 4 tbsp. flour
  • 4 tbsp. corn starch
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Beer

Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl with enough beer to make a batter a little thinner than pancake batter. Slice the fillets into strips 6 inches long by about 1 inch thick. Dip the sliced fillets into the batter and deep fry until the batter turns a golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve with tartar sauce, lemon juice, malt vinegar or cocktail sauce.

  • Yields: 3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Broiled Sole Fillets

Here is a simple original recipe for cooking either fresh or frozen sole fillets. This recipe also works very well for flounder, halibut, striped bass, salmon, catfish and rockfish. Adjust the cooking time depending upon the thickness of the fish. The fish is done when the meat flakes easily with a fork.
  • 12 sole fillets (allow 2 to 4 per person)
  • Seasoned salt
  • Melted butter
  • Tarragon
  • Marjoram
  • Pepper
  • Chopped parsley

Place the fillets on a cookie sheet or shallow baking dish. Baste with the melted butter and sprinkle the seasonings lightly on each fillet. Place in the broiler and cook until lightly browned on top (about 15 minutes for frozen or 8 minutes for fresh fillets). Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with lemon wedges, and your favorite vegetable dish or rice.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes


Crayfish, or "crawdads" as some prefer to call them, are a freshwater crustacean found commonly in streams, lakes, ponds and waterways throughout the United States. They are very similar in appearance to a lobster, but generally much smaller. Typically, crayfish range from 4 to 12 inches long, they may have fairly large claws, and are very tasty fare!

Crayfish are common throughout the world. I once read that the largest recorded catch of a crayfish was from a stream in Southeast Asia. The animal was 29 inches long, weighed over 25 pounds, and had a claw which measured 5 inches thick, 11 inches high, and 25 inches long! Unfortunately (or fortunately), we don't have any that large in the United States.

In Europe, crayfish are very highly valued as a food. They are also very expensive! In Italy they are known as longastino. It has been said that minestrone is not authentic unless there is a crayfish in the pot. In the south part of the U.S. they are also widely used as food. In other parts of this country, however, they are virtually under utilized as a food source. They are not common in most markets in the U.S.

For those who are inclined to harvest their own, they are very easy to catch. Merely tie a piece of liver on a string and drop it into the water near the bank. The crawdads will come out of hiding and greedily hang on to the liver. Slowly pull the string out of the water and shake the little "bugs" off into a bucket. They will live longer if there is no water in the bucket. Alternately, they tend to crawl out of the water after a rain, and may be picked up along the banks of a stream.

Catching crayfish is an excellent way to keep children occupied on a summer outing to a nearby river or lake. Also, the kids probably don't need a fishing license! Be careful in handling them however, as the claws are sharp and can pierce the skin. Grab them by the back next to the front claws, and they won't be able to reach you to pinch.

  • Crayfish, as many as you can eat
  • Pot of water
  • Salt or "crab boil" seasoning

Dump the crayfish live into a pot of salted or seasoned boiling water. They will turn a bright red color. Allow the water to return to a boil and remove from the heat. Pour off the hot water and snap the tails and claws off. Discard the remainder of the body. Rinse the tails and claws and crack the shells. The meat from the claws may be eaten as is, dipped in butter, or made into a cocktail with the same sauce used for shrimp cocktail.

Once the tails are cooked, they may be used in any number of recipes. They are quite suitable for Chinese style dishes. Try using them in place of shrimp for Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, use them in fried rice, or simply serve the tails with drawn butter as a side dish. The tails may be dipped in batter and deep fried, or used in stir fried vegetable dishes. Sweet and Sour crayfish tails are excellent. In general, treat crayfish like you would shrimp or lobster in cooking.

  • Yields: many servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes, unless you catch your own.

Foil Steamed Fish

This recipe works wonders with any type of fish. Rock cod, ling cod, salmon, trout, halibut fillets, red snapper, bass and most every other kind of fish will respond favorably to this method of cooking. This method of steaming is not done in a pot of water. Rather, this steaming is done in the natural juices of the fish itself. Flavorings may be added, and a few suggestions are given which tend to supplement the flavors of fish. Try this style of cooking over the grill with a fresh ling cod or red snapper.
  • Fresh whole fish (try the special of the day), about 4 lbs
  • Butter
  • Lemon slices
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Tarragon
  • Basil
  • White wine (if desired)

In a large piece of aluminum foil, place the fish in the center lengthwise and put pats of butter and lemon slices inside of the body cavity. Sprinkle the seasonings over the surface of the fish on both sides, and a little inside the body. Fold the edges of the aluminum up and put in the wine if desired. Fold and seal the aluminum foil, wrapping the fish firmly inside. Bake in the oven or put into a covered grille, allowing to cook for about 10 minutes per pound of fish.

As an alternative, place sliced vegetables inside of the foil with the fish. Zucchini, celery, carrots, peppers, and onions are good selections. The carrots or other hard vegetables may be partially cooked before placing in the foil with the fish, otherwise, they may not cook thoroughly enough.

  • Yields: 5 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Fried Trout and Other Fish

Being a successful fisherman, trout is a common table fare for our family during the fishing season. We prefer steelhead trout since they are large in size and have flesh and flavor similar to salmon.

In general, trout have a very delicate flavor. It is best not to overpower the subtle flavor of the meat with strong seasonings. Some other fish are similar. Kelp bass from the ocean, rockfish, and even some types of shark have a mild flavor which seasonings may overpower. Many types of fish lend themselves to this frying style. Try this method with the fresh fish you catch and see if it suits your taste.

Trout are good baked, broiled, grilled or fried. Here is my favorite recipe for fried trout. Salmon may also be filleted or cut into steaks and cooked in this manner. Larger trout (over 2 lbs.) should be filleted first and then cooked in this manner. Very large fish (over 4 lbs.) can be cut into steaks about 1 inch thick and fried.

It is best to cook small trout (7 to 12 inches long) with the bone in. If the fish is not overcooked, the bones will be easier to remove after cooking. If you are a bit squeamish, have someone cut off the head for you.

  • 4 Fresh whole trout -- allow 12 ounces of trout per person

Breading consisting of the following:

  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 T. seasoned salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes
  • Oil for frying (about ¼ inch in a skillet)
  • Butter
  • Chopped parsley for a garnish

Mix the breading in a plastic bag (it may be saved and reused for other fish or chicken). Wash the trout and remove any of the dark substance along the backbone. Scaling of the fish is not necessary unless it is very large. Put the trout into the bag of breading and shake to coat the fish. Have the cooking oil ready in a skillet over medium heat. Shake the excess breading off of the fish and put into the hot oil. Fry for about 5 minutes a side for a 12 to 14 inch trout. Do not overcook or the small bones in the trout will come loose and make eating the fish more of a chore than a pleasure. When the fish are cooked, place them into a serving dish and remove the bones.

Removing the bones is a simple operation. Merely hold the fish by the tail and place a fork into the meat near the tail. Push the meat off one side and then the other and discard the skeleton. What remains will be a boneless filet of trout. The skin of the small trout is edible. Some consider the skin to be the best part! Place the boned trout on serving dishes, melt a patty of butter on each fillet and top with chopped parsley. Serve with lemon wedges and your favorite side dishes.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Steamed Lobster or Crab

From Maine to California, lobster and crab must be the most popular types of seafood. These animals are simple to cook and very tasty to eat. Live animals are by far the best. Make sure that they are lively and not lethargic.
  • 2 whole lobster or crab (allow one per person)
  • Water for boiling
  • Salt or "crab boil" seasoning

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and/or seasoning. Drop the lobster or crab into the pot and allow the water to return to a boil. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove the animals from the water and serve immediately. The lobsters may be prepared for the table by using a cleaver to cut the animal down the center. Alternatively, snap the tail off and serve only the tail cut in half lengthwise. The claws may be served aside the tails.

Serve crab or lobster tails with drawn butter and slices of lemon.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Frog Legs in Garlic Butter

Frog legs are a wonderful delicacy to enjoy for the festive occasion. They may be served as an appetizer for a special meal, or as a side dish as well as a main course.

If you are prone to fishing, consider finding a nearby pond with a population of bullfrogs to catch your own. It is easiest to catch them at night with a frog gig or net and a flashlight. The light from a flashlight will temporarily paralyze them so that they can be captured easily. Once caught, you will need to remove the legs and skin them to prepare for cooking. Fresh frog legs are definitely the best.

If you are fortunate enough to find some fresh frog legs in the market, that will do. Simply follow the instructions below for a delicious meal.

  • 1 dozen frog legs (allow 3 to 4 per person, depending upon the size)
  • ¼ lb. butter
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and frog legs. Simmer for about 6 to 8 minutes per side, depending upon size. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately with rice, vegetables, or whatever you may fancy and enjoy.

  • Yields: 3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes