Savor: Fry it Up
BY Rachel Dickerson
It’s the end of summer
It’s the end of summerand your visiting friends and family before heading home are craving Southern-fried seafood. Oh all right admit it you are too! As you indulge (for your guests sake of course) enjoying fabulous fried crab cakes and perfect popcorn shrimp you might be wondering where when and how fish frying began. Just who invented this delicious stuff in the first place?
Seafood has been a part of our diet since the dawn of man. Ancient hominids collected shellfish and hunted marine life as early as 300 000 years ago evidenced by middens (pit deposits) of mussel and clam shells and fish bones at an archeological site in France called Terra Amata. Even Neanderthals were keen enough to invent and/or adapt tools such as fishhooks for exploiting their marine ecosystems.
But when did deep frying arrive on the scene? Fried food evolved when tall pottery vessels for boiling braising and stewing food were created. These tall vessels also made deep-frying food possible and frying fast became popular and prominent in almost every civilization. Portuguese chefs according to history scholars were the first to batter and deep-fry shrimp in the 1500s. The Japanese added a special touch a lighter batter and called it tempura.
The Asian Mediterranean European and American ports were centers of immense trade where frying seafood assimilated uniquely with local traditional cuisines. Here in the American South this mesh of taste and economy produced succulent crab cakes. Although minced meat (patty cake) is ancient the colonists received recipes from European settlers for cooking crab cakes the primary ingredients then as now were bread crumbs and spices.
As the centuries passed cooks of all kinds individualized their batters and frying styles making crab cakes in particular a decidedly local affair.
Which brings us back to your visiting vacationers. Company always has a yen for fried seafood and besides crowd-pleasing staples like the scenic Oceanic Dockside and South Beach Grill if they are asking to dine on fine local crab cakes and fried shrimp King Neptune Airlie Seafood Company and Something Fishy Seafood Restaurant are three great additional eateries to enjoy.
King Neptune is the oldest operating seafood restaurant in New Hanover County. Located off North Lumina Avenue on Wrightsville Beach King Neptune is the perfect place to settle in after a day on the beach. “When you come through my door you come into my home ” says Barnard Carroll owner of King Neptune. “Youre my family. Youll get good-old Southern-fried seafood. We do what tastes good.” Although Mack Ford retired from his 55 years as chef at King Neptune he left his secret Southern touch in the kitchen with executive chef Tommy Bridges. The delicious enormous crab cake on the Captains Platter is a home run and then some. And the Shore Dinner which includes fried shrimp fried fresh fish fried oysters fried scallops a fried crab cake as well as irresistible morsels of sweet warm cornbread will have you swooning for days. In busy summer months after a fun day of boating or beaching locals know to call in an order for carry out and dine alfresco at home.
The brilliant Airlie Seafood Company has its own take on the whole Southern fried thing. Their mouth-watering gorgonzola shrimp appetizer is fried in a zero-trans-fat cooking oil sauted in a spicy cream sauce and served over a bed of fresh mixed greens. Manager Chris McCray says “The gorgonzola shrimp is the most popular item on our menu. And weve got a great atmosphere to enjoy it in were located right on the Intracoastal Waterway.” You can pull your boat up to Airlie Seafood Restaurants dock tie it up take a table and order the gorgonzola shrimp or maybe the crunchy coconut shrimp or the lightly-fried calamari or the fried oysters or the fried cod all of which are caught locally by the Greenville Loop Seafood Company.
Dont have time to make it to the beach? No problem. Something Fishy Seafood Restaurant on South College Road has you more than covered. Just make sure to get there early. On the weekends cars line the side of the road waiting to get in. “Every day people bring their whole family and all their friends here to eat ” says manager Michelle Stough. No doubt they ask for the fried flounder and shrimp combo platter although you can find just about every kind of seafood you can fry shrimp oysters scallops flounder trout crab clams and scallops on the menu. Whatever you order make sure to ask for lots of their hushpuppies with honey butter to dip them in you wont be sorry. “Were very proud of the quality of our service and food here ” Stough says. “We want our customers to leave happy and full.”
Planning a family fish fry and dont know where to start? No worries. Heres a quick and easy recipe for a classic batter courtesy of Airlie Seafood Company that friends and relatives alike will love.
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 cup cornstarch
1 heavy tablespoon each of granulated garlic
Kosher salt and pepper
Mix the batter ingredients in a shallow bowl then fill another bowl with milk. Dip each piece of fish separately in the milk roll it in the batter and place it in a pot of boiling zero-trans-fat oil. Fry your battered fish at temperatures between 325 and 350 degrees until the batter is a perfect golden-brown.