That body of water is why I live here. Usually, it's a calm, warm stretch of emerald sea that forms a backdrop to much of life in this part of the world. No other body of water I know exerts the pull on me that the Gulf, my Gulf, does. I've dallied in The Atlantic. I've dabbled in the Pacific. The Mediterranean's good for an occasional affair and the Caribbean's a nice fling too. But none of them can compare with my Gulf of Mexico.
I'm sick over what's going on 5,000 feet below a spot 250 miles from where I'm sitting. Our beaches aren't likely to be fouled the way the beaches of Prince William Sound were 21 years ago. But the waters here will be fouled by something far more insidious. In the coming months and years, the contamination spreading outward from that spot on the floor of the Gulf is going to spread into every life form, including the ones I like to eat, along this coast.
The Gulf of Mexico is a treasure trove of resources, and all of those resources are linked together. You can't isolate the fisheries from the oil deposits, or the people from from either. Allowing an essentially self-regulated industry to Drill Baby Drill is an insanity on par with enabling unsustainable fish catches or encouraging endless, pointless suburban sprawl. The spill wreaking havoc to my northwest is a symptom of a deeper problem and it has a lot more to do with a human inability to think and act for the long term than it does with which party's in the White House. So instead of Drill Baby Drill, how about a chorus of Manage Baby Manage?
To the outside world Florida has no culture of its own but those of us who live here know it does just as surely as any other place on earth. For better or for worse, Florida does have a culture and it has foods unique to the region. Many of those foods are linked to the Gulf of Mexico. Chief among them is the grouper sandwich. Every restaurant and every aficionado in the region has a pet variation on the theme.
I walked along the beach at Pass-a-Grille yesterday and I stopped at The Wharf for what well may be my last Gulf grouper sandwich for a long time. It was at The Wharf that I first experienced a grouper reuben. While The Wharf's reuben isn't exactly sublime, whatever it's lacking is more than made up for by the jukebox full of Elvis songs.
My grouper reuben is sublime and here it is. It starts with some Thousand Dressing.
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons bottled sweet pickle relish
- 2 tablespoons bottled chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Onto the sandwich.
- 4 grouper filets
- 1/8 cup milk
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- pepper and salt
- olive oil to saute
- 2 cups of sauerkraut.
- 12 slices of a good aged swiss cheese
- 8 slices of good pumpernickel or marble rye
- butter to brush on the bread to grill
To prepare the grouper, I just put the milk in a zip lock bag and then add each piece of grouper, one at a time. It just gives a light base so the flour sticks well.So whatever happens out there in the coming weeks and months, I'm swearing off the grouper, the oysters, the stone crabs, the shrimp and the rest of the fruits of the Gulf fisheries 'til further notice. Thanks BP.
Mix the flour, cayenne and salt and pepper again in a dish or a separate bag and then drag each fillet in until it's lightly coated. Heat up the oil in a pan over medium high and saute the grouper until lightly golden on each side. 4-5 minutes per side is about right but it varies with the thickness of the fish.
Drain the sauerkraut and set aside, butter your bread and have the cheese slices ready to go.
Now heat up the pan to medium heat and build your sandwiches. Now lets build the sandwich. Take a slice of bread and smear it with Thousand Island dressing. Add a slice of cheese. Add your grouper filet and cover it with sauerkraut and another slice of cheese. Add the top slice of bread and grill until lightly golden on each side. The cheese should be melted and the sauerkraut nicely warmed.