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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gay Fishing - In Pursuit of Umami - Bon Appetit April 2013 92-94

Before you even go there, no it’s not a “move” nor is it something we do on Saturday nights at last call, “Gay Fishing” is a thing, at least P and I think so, and we want everyone to try it.

Now, I don’t mean to offend with our take on this hallmark of masculinity and by no means is this an assault on what may be the holiest of holy hetero pastimes but honestly, it is time someone put a spin on the old bait and hook.

There are 4 Tenets of Gay Fishing:
  1. It is NOT about the sport - It is most certainly about the carefully selected seasonal recipe featuring locally sourced produce and an inspired wine selection that you intend to accompany your catch.
  2. No Experience Required - You absolutely do not need to know what you’re doing, really, the less the better, you’ll enjoy it more.
  3. Stay Hydrated - and by that we mean with cocktails or mini versions of your favorite brewed beverage.
  4. Always Bring the Drama - because otherwise it’s just fishing.

You may ask, how did we come up with the Tenets of Gay Fishing? Well let me tell you a story...

Now most fishing stories begin with a line about “the crack of dawn” or something ridiculous like that. I can tell you that in the summer, the closest I get to the “crack of dawn” is an 8am skinny dip in the Vineyard Sound. So, with the knowledge that our summer mornings usually revolve around a cup of hazelnut coffee and perhaps a run (if we’re feeling bloated), you have to know that an account of a fishing trip is going to come with it’s creature comforts.

Rather than “the crack of dawn” this story starts around 2pm on the shores of Lake Tashmoo on Martha’s Vineyard, our summertime haunt as often as we can make it. The bocce game had just ended but the sun was shining and the temperature was a perfect 80. Anyone who has spent time or money (on time) on the Cape or the Islands knows you don’t waste a day like this. We’d spent the last few days in the sun on the beach and just weren’t into wasting another day on sedentary indulgence (I can’t believe I just said that) so we decided to head out on a fishing trip. 

This is where the Gay Fishing starts. First tenant of Gay Fishing, it isn’t about the sport, it’s always about the recipe and the wine pairing. In our case, we lusted after the most divine fish tacos we’d ever had at the table of our good friend Whitney. Thoughts of sea bass, sautéed in fresh tomatoes, onions, and garlic, served with a fresh jalapeño, napa & red cabbage slaw and topped with greek yogurt chipotle pepper ‘sour cream’, nestled in a warm corn tortilla and washed down with a snappy Vernaccia were all we needed to gather the mini cooler and jump into the boat. 

We piled in the Lucky Lu around 3:00pm and headed out onto the Sound, 2-dozen coronitas in hand and fish tacos on the mind, armed with a fish finder and absolutely 0 relevant fishing experience under our belts. We made our way to some of the familiar spots, Lamberts Cove and Cedar Tree Neck. Using squid for bait (gross I know) we cast a few lines. As we drifted in the wind we managed to land a few Scup. And by we, I mean everyone else, I was clearly taking advantage of the reflection of the sun on the water to try to tan those hard to reach places. Further, why we were catching such a small and ugly fish was beyond me until, of course, I was informed by P’s brother’s girlfriend, as she reeled in her 5th catch like a seasoned back water pro, these Scup were to be used as baitfish. Lesson learned, and image of my fish tacos safe, I breathed a sigh of relief and found myself growing excited about the prospect of landing a sea monster (it probably had a lot to do with the beer and the sun, but that’s neither here nor there). I decided to put my new found fishing enthusiasm to work and began to strategize about where to look for the prize fish, the striper. I drew a blank.

Second tenet of Gay Fishing; no experience or knowledge required. Plenty of Scup on board, we all looked cluelessly at each other with no clear path to the prize fish.  We pondered the legendary successes of past summers, fishing in various locations, casting a few lines, but nothing, and I mean nothing. Harry was growing weary, I was too but at least I had the Coronitas to stave off the boredom that comes with fishing failures. 

Third tenant of Gay Fishing is to keep well hydrated, preferably with something low calorie and in an aesthetically pleasing and highly portable bottle. In my case, I like the way one can cram at least 2-dozen little Coronitas in a reasonably sized cooler and still have room for the Espresso Patron and maybe even a block of cheese. I mean if you aren’t catching anything then doing shots of this potent tequila hybrid is pretty much the only way to enjoy the long hours. 

As the hours went by, sun began to set, the Coronitas dwindled, and tempers began to flare, we finally turned our attention to the break. That line in the water where the direction of the current changes and the white kicks up into the air, it was calling our name. Realizing our visions of fish tacos were quickly becoming a fantasy, we cast into the white caps with abandon. Suddenly it happened, something took P’s Scup, something big. My heart started pounding as everyone leapt into action. P was handling it like a pro, shouting to ensure everyone else would calm down, he was a vision of proficiency. He filtered out the meaningless advice we hurled his way, it was chaos. Moments later it broke the surface, a flash of silver, larger than anything I had ever seen before (mind you my fishing is limited to catching carp in the local pond). Once the beast was sighted it was all a blur, what felt like seconds later, P, H, and R were throwing the thrashing monster onto the deck of the Lucky Lu. 

That’s when the real drama began (4th tenet if you’re counting). Harry had been a quiet observer the whole time, silently watching the horizon and occasionally peeking into the bait bucket. When the gargantuan striper (later determined to be be over 39”) hit the deck, he lost it. Harry let out a shriek like we had never heard before. Part 5th grade girl and part banshee, the high pitched and sustained scream could have curdled the coolest of vampire blood. We’d never heard a sound like that in our lives, and probably never will. Mouth wide open and eyes bulging out of his head, I grabbed the poor thing in an attempt to calm him but the shrieking continued as P’s father and brother did battle with the thrashing mass of silver and scales. It was probably no more than 30 seconds before the fish was in the hull, but it sounded like eternity. Harry was breathless, we were speechless. We burst into laughter, doubled over at the sound we had just heard from little Harry. The humanoid range and guttural bass were akin to the sound one might imagine hearing from a frightened drag queen who forgot to shave on show night, it had us hysterical. It didn’t matter that we’d been at it for hours, that we were effectively hungover, nor did it matter that we had no idea how to butcher this monster - Harry had brought the Drama and brought the house down. 

I recall the butchering process to be rather revolting and undoubtedly sloppy. The tacos were delicious, but the thing we all took away from the fishing trip was an incredible story to tell, and tell, and tell again, about "Harry’s Scream Heard 'Round the Sound".

I would love to convince you the re-telling of this fish tale was born out of a lazy evening in the garden, sipping something transcendent out of the Loire Valley and being transported to the seaside just outside of Nice, but it wasn’t...You see, the temperature passed 90F on April 10th in Baltimore, so in reality this post was born standing in the kitchen in not-so-white-anymore undershirts, sweating profusely, slugging our trademark Sonics and agonizing over how to cook dinner without adding to BGE’s (the energy company) bottom line.

It was on that oppressively hot April afternoon in Baltimore that we decided to re-live the excitement of that summer day and cook up some rock fish. In anticipation of the heat, I had picked up some local wild caught filets from Fleet Street Market. P and I had fallen in love with the image of the Tarragon Roasted Halibut with Hazelnut brown butter from page 92 of Bon Appetit but wanted make a full dinner of it. I love to cook with fresh herbs so the tarragon was a must, obviously the hazelnut brown butter wasn’t going anywhere. Instead, we simply substituted the Halibut for our cherished local fish and decided that lemon garlic sauteed haricot verts were the perfect textural and nutritional complement to the main dish. Instead of roasting in the oven, we used a grill basket, lined with foil half way up the sides, placed on a hot grill to simulate the roasting process. Calling this “Groasting” is weird, so we’ll say “Grill-Roasting” as cumbersome as that may be. The rock fish ended up cooked oh so perfectly and it picked up the aromatics of the tarragon in a way I had never imagined. When drizzled in the hazel brown butter and set atop the green beans, it was a vision and a taste like I had never had before. It almost made us want to go Gay Fishing...again.


Tarragon Grill-Roasted Rockfish with Hazelnut Brown Butter


  • 1/2 cup blanched hazelnuts (or just buy chopped hazelnuts)
  • 1 large bunch fresh tarragon
  • 1 1/2 pound skin on Rockfish fillett
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 Lemon halves
  • 1/2 lbs haricot verts
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced thin

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Spread hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8-10 minutes. Coarsely chop; set aside. 
  • In a grill rack, lined with foil half way up the sides, scatter tarragon and place rockfish (skin down) on top, drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, season with salt and pepper, and squeeze two lemon halves over top. 
  • Grill-Roast on high heat until rockfish is just opaque in the center, 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. (leave the lemon halves used to juice on the grill with the fish)
  • Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until butter foams, then browns (don't let it burn), about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let brown butter cool slightly. Stir in lemon juice, hazelnuts, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
  • Once brown butter has foamed, being sautéing green beans with sliced garlic in evoo until bright green and just beginning to become tender
  • Serve fish atop green beans, with hazelnut brown butter sauce drizzled all over and garnish charred lemon halves.


  1. Laughed out loud at the gay fishing story. You can really tell it, C.

  2. I got really curious about this gay fishing thing, especially when you said that no fishing experience is needed! Haha! Well, what can I say. It was truly a fun afternoon you all had while fishing. So, what's so special with your ways of fishing? It's that you all did it the way you would enjoy the most. Good job! And oh, the food looks sumptuous! Thank you for the recipe!
    Bernita @ Catch Me If U Can Fishing Charters