Saturday, May 10, 2008

Rockfish and the Captain's Cookery

I've motored back from New Orleans and Jazzfest with far too many pictures and potential topics to deal with when sticking to the framework and format of Unique Culinary Adventures. The May 3 post covers my drive south, and a podcast is now up on Itunes sharing what seemed to me to be as locally relevant as any of the numerous culinary tidbits gleaned from this trip.

Having devoted both a post and a podcast to these recent travels, the time has come to deliver at least some that was promised in our final podcast before leaving Baltimore. I'd just returned from a very successful expedition on a charter boat in the Chesapeake fishing for rockfish (striped bass to people from many locales). Some of my 34 inch trophy went for chowder and ceviche. The fried main course is pictured above next to a cover image of the cookbook from which the recipe was lifted. The Captain's Cookbook presents the most interesting and generally informative perspective regarding the preparation of saltwater seafood I've ever encountered.

Its author, Walter Kaprielian, in addition to being a charter boat captain and highly skilled home cook, was Chairman and Creative Director of Kaprielian O'Leary Advertising in Manhattan before retiring to Easthampton, Long Island. His role in the advertising business was rooted in graphic skills, which The Captain's Cookbook exemplifies magnificently. For instance, the numerous illustrations that accompany each recipe are Kaprielian's own pen and ink drawings, and every word of text is penned in his handwriting.

The Captain's Cookbook is as functional as it is artistic. Its illustrations cover all the steps beginning shortly after the main seafood ingredient leaves the water. They bring together images in a manner difficult to capture by camera of what's involved from start to finish. Included also are images of extraneous ingredients, even cooking utensils. To obtain his recipes, Kaprielian wrote to charter boat captains on each coast requesting their favorites.

The Captain's Cookbook was published in 1976. It has been out of print for a number of years, although a few copies are available on Amazon. Last October, I had the pleasure of fishing with Walter on his boat and later joining him and his wife Dinaz for dinner. Aware of my fascination with The Captain's Cookbook, he presented me a copy as a gift. Walter also gave me permission to publish a recipe from his book at Unique Culinary Adventures, albeit without the informative illustrations and magnificent penmanship.

He obtained the recipe being shared from Captain Steve Bales, described as "well known as a bass fishing skipper in the San Francisco area". Although entitled "Captain Steve's Special California Fish Fry," Kaprielian makes clear that it's perfect for rockfish. And so it was:

1. Fillet one rock cod or striped bass or any rock fish. Cut into serving sized pieces.
2. Beat two eggs and gradually add inough beer to cover the fillets.
3. Cover dish and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours, the longer the better.
4. Remove fish, shake off excess moisture and roll (or shake in a bag) in flour,
meal, or crumbs into which salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried parsley
have been added.
5. Deep fry in oil or Crisco until golden crusted brown.

"Fantastic" is the word Kaprielian uses to describe this dish, and I agree. The lime wedges and cup of hot sauce in the picture were included at my personal discretion.