Summertime means the season of fishing, boating and time spent at the beach is at hand, bringing plenty of fun in the sun.
But summer's arrival also means the heart of grilling season is at hand, something that inspires plenty of backyard chefs to fire up the grill and thaw out some burgers and steaks.
But beef – or venison and other wild game cuts – is only one way to cook up a backyard dish that will bring smiles to the faces of family and friends, not to mention requests for seconds.
Especially when the menu includes a good recipe or two for a variety of fish swimming in either fresh or saltwater venues.
If fish is on your grill-side menu, then consider these recipes as solid options to try:
Horton's Bean Salad
Every summertime grilling session on the backyard deck needs something light to start off with and Bassmaster Elite Series and Major League Fishing pro Timmy Horton has just the ticket – the Horton Bean Salad.
If you've known the 2000 BASS Angler of the Year and host of World Fishing Network's Timmy Horton Outdoors TV show for any length of time, you've probably heard him talk about the dish that he describes as one of his favorites.
How is it prepared?
- 1 can of drained pork and beans
- 1 diced onion
- 5 large chopped dill pickles
- 1 tablespoon of pickle juice
- 1 cup of mayo
- Salt and pepper
Seems simple enough, right? Well, it is since the Alabama bass pro says to combine the above ingredients and chill in the refrigerator before serving.
"It may be simple but it's awesome," said Horton, owner of the Profound Outdoors tackle company (www.profoundoutdoors.com).
Vera Cruz Grilled Walleye
Chad LaChance, the host of World Fishing Network's Fishful Thinker television show, loves to chow down on fresh fish.
Especially when his Camp Chef Somerset IV stove and 24-inch Pro Griddle (www.campchef.com) are both handy on the back deck of LaChance's Colorado Rockies home.
And as much as he enjoys the mountains and trout streams that loom above his backyard, he also likes the taste deep reservoir waters of the Great Plains, the Midwest and the Great Lakes regions can provide.
And that includes a spicy dish that he calls Vera Cruz Grilled Walleye.
World Fishing Network television show host Chad LaChance loves the taste of beef and wild game on the summertime grill as much as anyone. But true to his Fishful Thinker TV show roots, the Colorado angler also likes to fire up the grill for some tasty grill-side fish recipes. (Photo courtesy of Chad LaChance)
"For the fish fillets, rinse, trim and thoroughly chill two 16- to 20-inch walleyes," said LaChance. "Of course, you can substitute just about any fish fillets that you like for this dish."
- 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 8 to 10 green olives, chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- Pinch of chili powder
- Olive oil
- Dry white wine
- 1 lime
- Sea salt and black pepper
When the ingredients are assembled, LaChance says to heat the griddle over medium heat on the grill or stove, until a drop of water sizzles away immediately.
"Drizzle some olive oil on one end of the griddle surface, then add the tomatoes and onion," he said. "Cook the mixture, tossing occasionally with a large spatula, until the onions just start to turn transparent."
LaChance says to then add in the olives and capers and toss the mixture around.
"Add a touch more olive oil if needed, then place a cover over the mixture and allow it to cook for a couple of more minutes," he said. "In the meantime, season one side of the filets with salt and pepper.
"Then oil the other end of the griddle top and place fillets on it, seasoned side down. Allow them to cook uncovered for about three minutes without moving them."
LaChance says to immediately add the garlic, chili powder and a splash of white wine and a squeeze of lime juice to the onion-tomato mixture.
"Toss to mix and recover until fish is ready to flip," said LaChance. "Then flip the fish, placing the fillets close together on the griddle surface.
"Scoop all of the tomato-onion mixture on top of the fillets, splash with some white wine and another squeeze of lime juice and then cover."
At that point, all that's left to do according to LaChance is to let the fish cook for another three minutes or so – or until the fillets flake easily with a fork – and then serve with white rice.
Another good grill-side recipe for summer involves fresh fish fillets, a hot fire and tortillas turned into tacos. As you might expect, it comes from the state of Texas.
Woodruff's Grilled Fish Tacos with Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
Rob Woodruff is a fly fishing guide who specializes in Lone Star State largemouth bass in addition to southeastern Oklahoma trout.
And like many of the Orvis-endorsed guides in the long-rod fishing fraternity he belongs to, catch and release is most often the motto of the day.
But not always.
Not when an errant walleye or a white bass or a crappie is found in the chilly waters of the Lower Mountain Fork River below Broken Bow Reservoir.
Because when a tasty fish like those mentioned above gets washed into the coldwater tailrace flowing through the Ark-La-Tex region, the outdoorsman's kitchen can begin to call loudly for a supply of fresh fillets.
For Texas fly fishing guide Rob Woodruff, catch-and-release is usually the motto for the day. But not always, especially when a tasty fillet of fish like a walleye or a red snapper finds its way into the Orvis guide's East Texas kitchen. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
Whatever type of piscatorial protein you happen to enjoy sampling, Woodruff – something of a talented Pineywoods chef when he is not on the water – has a great recipe to try.
And true to his Lone Star State roots – he is an East Texas resident, his dad was a high school football coach and he is a Texas A&M graduate, after all – it involves the word taco.
To start his fish taco recipe, Woodruff (www.flyfishingfork.com) says that he makes a garlic Achiote paste from the following ingredients:
Garlic Achiote Paste Ingredients:
- 2 tbs. ground Achiote seeds (also called Annatto)
- 1 tsp. ground allspice
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 ½ tsp. crumbled Mexican oregano
- 3 tbs. apple cider vinegar
- 3 crushed garlic cloves
"You mix everything together until it forms a thick paste," said Woodruff. "Blend with ¼ cup of water and three tablespoons of fresh lime juice to make a marinade."
To marinade the fish, Woodruff will place 1 ½ skinless fish fillets – he says that mahi- mahi or red snapper works well – in a shallow dish, then pouring the marinade over the fillets, flipping them so that they are well covered. Then he covers the dish and refrigerates it for one to three hours.
"Then while I'm marinating the fish, I'll prepare the fresh tomatillo salsa," said Woodruff.
Fresh Tomatillo Salsa Ingredients:
- 1 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered
- 2 Serrano chilies
- ¾ cup of cilantro leaves
- 2 tbs. fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp. of sugar
Once you have the salsa ingredients assembled, Woodruff says to process them in a food processor until the mixture is smooth.
At that point, all that's left to do is to grill the marinated fish fillets over coals from a hot mesquite fire, a Texas wood that gives grilled meat and fish a wonderful smoky flavor.
"Once the fillets are done, break them into pieces and make fish tacos with hot corn tortillas, thinly shredded green cabbage, cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime, a sprinkle of kosher salt and the tomatillo salsa," said Woodruff.
If you're looking for a side dish to go with the fish tacos described above, Woodruff suggests a dish well known in College Station where he went to school.
"Don't let the canned beans and Clamato juice fool you," laughs Woodruff.
"This quick version of Charro Beans – brought to the Outdoors Board at Texags.com by user B-1 83 – has become famous (among Aggies) with over 85,000 views and 500 comments since it was posted back in 2009."
How do you prepare the Aggieland version of Charro Beans?
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped (or one can of fire roasted tomatoes)
- 2 Serrano peppers, finely chopped (with seeds)
- 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 cups Clamato juice
- 2 large cans Bush's pinto beans
- 6 strips of bacon
- 1 tbs. oil (or lard)
"Cook the onion in hot oil – or lard – until they are just getting soft," said Woodruff. "Then add the bacon. When the bacon just starts to brown, add the beans and all of the remaining ingredients."
Woodruff says to bring to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes, eventually coming up with a worthy side dish for his fish taco recipe.
And there you have it, a fish-inspired selection of recipes and dishes that will give summer's weekend grillers a break from the usual fare of grilled burgers, dogs, brats and steaks.
If you have a good supply of tasty fish fillets in the freezer – from walleye to crappie to redfish or something else that happens to be handy – then why not give these recipes a try?
All the while tipping your hat and raising your glass of iced tea to toast the North American landscape where all of our outdoor freedoms are possible in the first place.