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  • jeff2604

Hey Grandpa...What's For Supper?

Grilled Snakehead with beets, taters and a Vi-DAHL-ya onion. Yum yum!

I had to get a new grill recently…because I killed my old grill. It was nothing special, just a cheap, off brand deal I picked up for about $200. It was on its fifth year which is about all I manage to get out of most grills. Probably because I don’t bother to clean them properly. Anyway, about a month or so ago Chris and Kelly came over for dinner and I decided to grill up some Roseda Farms steaks. I usually use the reverse sear method, cooking the steaks in my sous vide cooker for a couple of hours and then searing them off on the grill for just a minute on each side. But for some reason I got lazy this time and decided to cook the steaks on the grill from start to finish.

I cranked the burners all the way up and was counting on four minutes per side after the grill was preheated, which is how Janet’s dad taught me to grill a steak. Before I started using the reverse sear approach that was always the perfect amount of time to cook an inch and a half thick steak to medium rare, and I saw no reason to change a winning formula. What I didn’t count on was the grease fire that erupted about three minutes after I put the steaks on. Burned the bottom clear out of the firebox and darned near caught the house on fire. I guess there’s a reason they recommend cleaning out the grease pan periodically. Well now I know. I managed to salvage the steaks, though the perfect sear I was going for was more like a perfect char by the time I got the fire under control enough to be able to pull them off. Ah what the hell…it was a cheap grill anyway.

I’ve spent the past two weeks breaking in my new grill, which was not a cheap one. I got a Weber Genesis 325 with those fancy sear zone burners and a grease pan that is conveniently located on a sliding shelf just under the fire box. Now I have no excuse for letting the grease pan go five years between cleanings. I don’t even have to bend down to take it out. Just reach my hand in there, pull out the shelf and there she is.

The grill comes with a ten-year warranty on the firebox…I’ll let you know how that works out in about five. I even got the gourmet attachment that lets me swap out one of the grill grates for a fancy pants grill tray, so I can properly grill up fish and veggies. That came in handy when I saw the Snakehead filet at Conrad’s Seafood. I was between orders of my Wild Alaskan Company salmon and halibut, and I went to Conrad’s to pick up some locally caught Rockfish. But when I saw that Snakehead on ice…I skipped right past the Rockfish and grabbed it.

Snakehead is like the marine equivalent of roadkill, which is probably why it appealed to me. It looks like something that crawled out of the primordial ooze. Most people are grossed out at the mere sight of a Snakehead, and the idea that you might eat one is beyond consideration. Yet it is surprisingly tasty if you cook it up right. And with my new Weber grill and the fancy pants grill pan, I cooked it up right…skin and all.

I understand why people are grossed out by Snakeheads. It doesn’t even look like a fish…it looks like a snake, which I’m guessing is why people call it Snakehead. The skin is patterned like a rattlesnake’s hide, and it is slimy like a mud cat, not at all appealing. But…after some knucklehead emptied their aquarium full of Snakeheads into the Crofton community pond a few years ago, and a flood allowed the beasties to escape into a neighboring stream…well we’re stuck with them. They call it a non-indigenous invasive species. I call it delicious.

I had no idea how to cook up a Snakehead. I was thinking along the lines of a mud cat since it was slimy and all, and if I had any buttermilk left in the fridge I would have soaked it in a buttermilk bath for a day or two and then made up a nice batter and deep fried it. But…I used up all the buttermilk on my last batch of Maryland fried chicken, so I decided to go simple. I fired up my new Weber grill, put the fancy pants grill pan on, seasoned my Snakehead filet with salt and pepper, rubbed some peanut oil on it and then slapped it on the fire. I tossed some sundried tomatoes and oregano on top as an afterthought.

Even though it was a big filet, weighed in at about a pound, there was still plenty of room on the grill pan. I had just made a run to Brad’s to pick up some local produce, so I sliced up some beets, taters, red and green peppers, and a Vi-DAHL-ya onion (down south in Georgia they call them Vie-DAY-yuh but us Marylanders know better) and tossed it all onto the grill pan next to the Snakehead. It took just about 12 minutes to cook the fish, slightly longer for the veggies, and then I dished it all up.

I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor. Where I was expecting catfish, I got a meaty texture with a taste that was sweet and mild. Much as I’d like to credit my expert culinary skills with how it turned out, I think the fish is just that darned tasty. And with the root veggies grilled up alongside, it made for one delicious meal. Except the skin. I still couldn’t get myself to eat the skin even though I cooked it up beautifully crisp, so I tossed it aside.

I don’t think I’ll be making a steady diet of Snakehead. I’ll for sure be cooking it again, but the next thing I’m going to cook up on my new grill are some tasty steaks. I owe Chris and Kelly a do-over on that dinner I ruined, and this time I’ll be sure to clean out the grease pan before I start the grill.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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