Grouper Nuggets

The Snook Inn, a little wood-framed restaurant at the foot of “the best snook fishing bridge in the US”, in Matlacha, Florida, used to do a landslide business every Friday night, serving Grouper Nuggets. Much to the anguish of seafood gluttons and connoisseurs alike, The Snook Inn closed in 1984. Though, The Snook Inn has closed you can still enjoy a Friday night feast wit the recipe below.

First, cut the Grouper into bite-sized nuggets. Then the fish pieces should be dredged in seasoned flour and dipped in beaten egg before applying the breading. Egg seals off the fish from the fat when the pieces hit the hot grease.

Another advantage of a copious egg coating is the evenness with which the breading will adhere. You’ll serve fish pieces with nary a crack or clump missing in the coating. The quicker you fry your fish, the better. Hence, fish that is deep-fried on six sides will get done much more quickly then that which is being cooked from only two directions. The less time your fish spends in the frier, the less grease it can soak up and the less natural juices can boil out to cause dryness, toughness and loss of flavor.

With small pieces it also is possible to use very light types of breading which would burn with longer cooking times. Preseasoned Italian bread crumbs are one such coating, and prepared cornflake crumbs are, in a word, indescribable. The fish should “swim” while frying, and the more grease used, the easier it is to stabilize the temperature at the desired 375 degrees. Don’t put so many pieces in at a time that they cause a noticeable drop in temperature, and if you’re not using a thermostatically controlled fryer, by all means use a thick-bottomed aluminum pan or cast iron skillet which will impart even heat to the oil.

Whatever grease or oil you choose for frying, just make sure it’s fresh. The rule: fresh fish, fresh eggs, fresh grease! Once one of those little nuggets is popped into one’s mouth, it then becomes breathtakingly clear that you can’t make fried fish any better!!!