If the world’s great chefs collaborated on the most delicious meal ever prepared, they could not create a dish more delectable than fresh-caught fish cooked over a campfire.
A trout just caught from a mountain stream can be wrapped in foil with herbs and spices and cooked on hot coals to create a culinary delight. Fresh bass fillets blackened in a skillet take on special flavor when cooked beside the lake from which they were taken. Fried panfish and catfish taste best with rippling-water music playing in the background.
Plan your meal before leaving home. Gather all ingredients and prepare them. Chop fresh veggies and herbs, prepare spice mixes and condiments, and store everything on ice in airtight containers. Pack other necessary items in a waterproof box, including a skillet and/or cooking pot, aluminum foil, a cooking grate, eating and cooking utensils, cups, plates, napkins and garbage bags.
When you reach your fishing destination, all you need is fresh-caught fish to create a great shore lunch. Keep just what you need to eat; then beach your boat at a scenic spot and relax while savoring the heavenly aroma of just-caught fish cooking over a fire.
Remember to build campfires only where permitted; then properly extinguish your fire. Better yet, cook on a portable stove so no evidence of your visit remains.
When lunch is over, clean your cook site so it remains unspoiled for other visitors. Carry out all garbage, including fish scraps and uneaten food.
The following tried-and-true recipes are sure to make your next shore lunch a winner.
Foil-Broiled Riverside Trout
Cooking in aluminum foil is the best way to avoid after-lunch cleanup. Your meal can be cooked and served in a foil packet; then the foil is placed in a garbage bag for later disposal. This quick, simple recipe turns fresh-caught trout into a repast fit for royalty.
1 cup creamed butter
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
6 trout, about 1/2 pound each
Salt and black pepper
Before leaving on your trip, make an herb butter by blending the creamed butter, chives, parsley and oregano. Pack in a small waterproof container, and store on ice. Also carry an 18-inch square of aluminum foil for each trout.
At meal time, spread each piece of foil rather thickly with the herb-butter mixture, leaving 2 inches of unbuttered border all around. Put a trout on each foil square, salt and pepper to taste, and squeeze on a little lemon juice. Then fold the foil around the fish, and double fold the edges to seal in the juices. Place a cooking grate 6 to 8 inches above campfire coals, and grill 25 to 30 minutes, turning once. Serve in the foil.
Poached Sunnies With Lemon-Chive Sauce
Small sunfish are a common catch on many Arkansas fishing trips. Usually, they are released. But despite their diminutive size, sunnies are delicious when poached in seasoned liquid and served with savory lemon-chive sauce. Consider keeping a few for your next shore lunch.
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds sunfish fillets
1/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Carry two skillets for this shore lunch. In one, combine water, bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons lemon juice squeezed from the lemon. Bring to a boil. Add fillets. Move to a cooler part of the fire, and simmer, covered, 3 to 5 minutes or until fish is firm and opaque and just begins to flake. Drain and discard poaching liquid. Cover fish to keep warm. Set aside.
In the other skillet, melt butter. Add remaining sauce ingredients. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture is hot, stirring constantly. Serve sauce over fish.
Chef Paul Prudhomme made blackened redfish a dish known worldwide. His method of cooking also works well with catfish, crappie, bass and other fish, and it’s easy to prepare over campfire coals.
10 (6- to 10-ounce) fish fillets
1 pound unsalted butter, melted, kept warm in a skillet
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
Before leaving home, use a fork to thoroughly combine blackening-spice ingredients in a small bowl. Store in a zip-seal bag or other waterproof container until ready to use.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet until it is almost white hot. Dip each piece of fish in melted butter; then sprinkle some blackening spice mix evenly on each side. Immediately place the fish in the hot skillet, cooking one piece at a time. Pour a teaspoon of melted butter atop the fish. (Be careful; the butter may flame up.) Cook about 2 minutes, turn, and pour another teaspoon of butter on top. Cook 2 minutes more. When the fish is done, it should be flaky, white and still very moist inside. Serve each piece while piping hot with more hot melted butter on the side for dipping.
Pan-fried Bass With Bacon-Pepper Potatoes
This classic shore lunch is filling and full of flavor.
4 bass fillets (about 8 ounces each)
6 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 medium potatoes, peeled, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup green-pepper strips
1 (4-ounce) jar whole pimientos, drained, cut into strips
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Sauté the bacon pieces in a large cast-iron skillet until almost crisp. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the bacon grease in a cup to add to the fish later.
Add potatoes, green pepper and pimientos to the bacon grease left in the skillet. Cook, stirring, until potatoes are browned and bacon is crisp.
While the potatoes are cooking, shake together the corn meal, flour, salt and pepper in a zip-seal plastic bag. Add the fish fillets, and shake to coat.
Push the potatoes to one side of the skillet, then add the reserved bacon grease and heat. Add as many fish fillets as you can without crowding them, and cook until the coating is crispy and golden. Cook remaining fillets, and serve piping hot with potatoes on the side.