If you’re thinking of giving a Chesapeake flavor to your Thanksgiving Feast this year, consider two of my favorite outdoor dishes with a Tidewater twist.
Fish Are Biting
Anglers continue to get their rockfish limits live-lining spot — when they can be found; most of these baitfish have left the Bay for saltier waters by now. Chumming and fishing cut bait (fresh menhaden) is evolving as the method of choice for many anglers seeking legal stripers. Drifting live eels is producing consistently larger fish.
Light-tackle jigging is coming into full force. Working the Bay Bridge structures in early morning and evening with Bass Assassins and BKDs is putting fish in the box. Vertical jigging with Stingsilvers, Crippled Alewives and Trout Bombs later in the day can result in rockfish battles as well as an occasional jumbo white perch.
The perch bite has been excellent the past few weeks. Schools of big perch are gathering over shell bottoms in 15 to 18 feet of water and taking bloodworms and grass shrimp. Try Belvedere Shoals, Podickery, the Eastern Shore Rock Pile, Sandy Point State Park and Matapeake.
Determined crabbers are scoring at the same depths in rivers and creeks with big, fat Jimmies, and lots of them.
Details at: www.dnr.state.md.us/huntersguide/pdfs/Hunting_Seasons_Calendar.pdf
Canada Goose, late resident: Nov. 15- 26
I first encountered ceviche (fresh fish pickled in spicy, citrus juices) on an adventure in Costa Rica some 35 years ago. Ever since, I have been recreating it here on the Chesapeake, using fresh rockfish (striped bass to any Connecticut Yankees or left coasters among us).
This is a terrific appetizer or an excellent first course for your Thanksgiving Feast. Serves 8 to 10. Prepare the evening before.
2-3 lbs. rockfish fillets
4 garlic cloves
1 large Spanish or sweet onion
1 large jalapeno pepper
1 handful fresh cilantro
4 spring onions
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. coarse Kosher salt
Trim off and discard the dark lateral line from the fillets, and cut the fish into small pieces one-fourth to one-half-inch thick and an inch or so long. Search out and remove any bones.
Place the pieces of fish in a large glass bowl.
Halve the onion lengthwise, then thinly slice.
Press or mince the garlic.
Chop the spring onions and finely chop the jalapeno peppers.
Roughly chop the cilantro.
Add all of the ingredients to the fish. Sprinkle on a tablespoon of the Kosher salt and add the olive oil.
Toss the mixture in the bowl until everything is well distributed.
Squeeze the lemon and lime juice over the mixture, and stir so that the liquid penetrates. The juice should just immerse all of the fish pieces.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a firmly fitting lid and refrigerate at least six hours, but preferably overnight, tossing the ingredients at least once in the interim to be sure all of the fish has been exposed to the citrus juices.
The acids in this marinade will in effect cook the fish to a texture similar to that of steamed shrimp. (Any bacteria that may be present or introduced during the preparation cannot survive exposure to the acid of the lemon-lime juice.)
To finish, first taste and adjust the spices to your palate. Then drain off the juice and heap the Rockfish Ceviche over a bed of lettuce on a large platter or on individual salad plates. Serve with Bremner wafers, saltine crackers, pieces of artisan bread or all three. Refrigerated, Rockfish Ceviche will keep up to four days.
Barbecued Garlic-Stuffed Tidewater Venison
This is my favorite way to prepare a hindquarter of Maryland venison for a large gathering. But any big, meaty roast — like a Delmonico or a whole beef shoulder — can be adapted as well. Feeds at least a dozen hearty eaters. Prepare the roast four hours before cooking.
One hindquarter of venison or large beef roast six to seven pounds
6 or 7 large cloves of garlic
3 tbs. olive oil
1-1/2 tbs. coarse Kosher salt
1 tbs. of Old Bay seasoning
1 tbs. of freshly ground black pepper
Mesquite wood chips for barbecue method
Slice each garlic clove the long way into quarters. Using the point of a filet knife, make deep incisions in the roast at regular intervals and insert the garlic.
Combine salt, pepper and Old Bay.
Rub the roast all over with the olive oil and coat generously with the spice mixture.
Marinate at room temperature until you’re ready to cook. This should bring the internal temperature of the meat up to roughly 70 degrees and allow the flavors to permeate the meat. It will also reduce roasting time and result in a more uniformly cooked roast.
If using a charcoal grill, bank the hot coals at both sides of the grill for indirect heat and place an aluminum foil drip pan between the piles.
Recommended option: soak a large handful of mesquite wood chips in warm water, drain then add half to each pile of glowing charcoal.
Add the roast, and close the grill’s cover, leaving the vents open.
Or bake the roast at 400 degrees in a preheated oven.
A roast will finish much quicker when it is at room temperature prior to cooking. The roast should take approximately 12 to 15 minutes a pound to reach 140 degrees or medium rare, 15 to 18 minutes a pound for well done. Use a meat thermometer to gauge the cooking progress. Let the roast stand for 10 minutes before slicing.