"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Double-Duty Baked Sheepshead
Copyright © 2002 by Bill Scifres

#1Baked Fish

Recently I wanted to cook some fish and decided it would a frozen sheepshead from the Outer Banks. It would be baked in a skillet, surrounded by pre-cooked veggies, and a few strips of bacon. The fish probably would have weighed 3 ½ (three and one-half) or four pounds. It had been scaled and head and entrails had been removed before it was frozen. 

After thawing the fish, I scaled it more on cold running water at the kitchen sink, then allowed it to drain for half an hour. Drying with paper towel will hasten the drying process. 

With tail removed, the fish was a nice fit for my 10-inch iron skillet which has a cast iron cover. 

Here's how: 

Coat fish with olive oil and sprinkle liberally (inside and out) with salt and pepper.

Place pre-cooked (not completely cooked) veggies of your choice around fish and in the cavity.

Drape fish with two or three strips of bacon (jowl bacon is excellent). 

Baked covered for 30 to 45 minutes, or until skin of fish splits, then broil, to brown, for a few minutes. 

Remove fish and veggies from skillet and make a pan of milk gravy for serving over fish and veggies. 

#2:  Leftover Fish Cakes 

Save leftover flaky white flesh, pinched into small pieces. Discard skin and dark colored flesh (this is the circulatory system of the fish. It offers good fish taste although it is dark or wine-colored). 

Refrigerate leftover fish. 

When ready to make fish cakes, further pinch fish into smaller pieces. Add finely-chopped onion,  pinched up bread, one egg and enough milk to saturate the bread. Some flour can be stirred in if needed to thicken mixture. 

Place no-stick skillet on medium-hot burner with 1/8 (one eighth) inch of olive oil. When skillet is hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion or bread crumb, spoon mounds of mixture in and flatten them with a spatula to create cakes. Turn cakes when browned on first side, remove when second side is browned. 

 Serve with gravy laced with melted cheese. 

Baked Fish Image
Fish Cakes Image
Baked Fish
Fish Cakes


 #3:  And Now For Some Chowder 

OK! So you fudged a little, you didn't use all of the leftover fish in the fish cakes. You just weren't sure you would like fish cakes. It's OK! 

But let's not waste that leftover, leftover fish. Let's turn it into yet another great fish dish, and chowder will fill the bill just right. 

Making leftover fish chowder is very similar to making fish chowder from raw (uncooked) fish. The only difference will be noted in the fact that in making leftover, leftover fish chowder the fish is already cooked and ready for consumption, which is akin to tickling the palate. 

But fish chowder is fish chowder . . . You cook one and you have cooked the other. The only difference lies in the fact that if you are starting with raw fish, you simply cook it before you start on the chowder. 

Now that we have that straightened out, let's get going with the chowder. 

I think in terms of whole, half, and half for my chowder. If I have two cups of fish (pinched and chopped into small pieces), I think in terms of one cup of finely chopped potato, and ½ (one-half) cup of finely chopped onion. Then I go to smaller amounts of mushrooms (wild or store-bought), carrot, green pepper, or other veggies of your choice, including whole-kernel corn or green peas.. The veggies, if raw, are pre-cooked (just enough water to cover them in a saucepan) with a strip of finely chopped bacon. 

My formula is designed to thwart attempts of the veggies to take over my fish chowder. I want the fish taste to dominate my chowder. If I wanted my chowder to taste like veggies--and sometimes I do--I leave out the fish. If the fish is raw, cook it right along with the veggies, well seasoned with salt and pepper. 

When the veggies are showing signs of tenderness, drain off the stock and use it to make a cream sauce by combining it with a few tablespoons of flour over moderate heat. There will not be enough stock to make a big cream sauce, but when all of the stock has been used stir in milk, or even half-and-half. 

When the cream sauce cooks to the desired consistency, it should be stirred into the veggies and the fish. Then the heat should be tuned down to simmer or a very slow bubble, the pot covered, and the chowder permitted to steep, sampling it occasionally for taste (C's P), cook's prerogative. 

It would be well at this point to point out that chowder should be a little thicker than soup, but not pasty. 

The chowder should be stirred often with a wooden spoon throughout the cooking and steeping to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. 


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