Monday, September 3, 2012

Fire up the grill on Labor Day and have some fish and shellfish

For Labor Day, I thought I'd go with a cookout-themed post (even though it looks like significant parts of the country are not having cookout-quality weather today).

"Fish and Shellfish Over the Coals" is a 24-page staplebound recipe booklet that was once sold by the U.S. Government Printing Office. It appears that new printings were done through the mid 1970s, but I think this booklet was first published in 1965.

How do I know that? Well, the archived news release from the Department of the Interior — dated July 12, 1965 — announcing the booklet's publication is available online in PDF format. (Whether this is a necessary use of the Internet's vast storage capacity is a question that even this packrat ephemeraologist would ask.)

Here's an excerpt from that news release:
"Developed especially for those who enjoy cooking outdoors, the new booklet contains recipes for lobster tails, whitefish in foil, flounder with crab stuffing, rainbow trout, charcoal broiled scallops, and many other tasty seafood delicacies.

"Bureau home economists tested and approved nearly 40 new recipes and serving ideas which are illustrated in color in the 24-page booklet. It also contains helpful suggestions for buying fish for quality and quantity, and tips on starting and maintaining the charcoal fire.

"Fish and Shellfish Over the Coals, (Test Kitchen Series No. 14), is available for 40 cents from the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D.C. 20402."
There were high hopes for what this modest booklet would accomplish. Donald L. McKernan, then the director of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries1, stated: "Publication of 'Fish and Shellfish Over the Coals' will help many more consumers realize the economy and nutritive value of fish as an everyday food."

I think my favorite part of the booklet is the advice on "How to know good fish":
"In selecting whole, fresh fish, look for bright, clear, bulging eyes; reddish pink gills; bright colored scales adhering tightly to the skin; and elastic flesh, springing back when pressed."
Recipes in the booklet include charcoal-grilled red snapper steaks, campfire smelt, smoked mullet, sesame rainbow trout, Chesapeake Bay clambake, oriental swordfish steaks, ocean perch German potato pancakes, tuna Waldorf salad2, hickory smoked sablefish and yellow perch kabobs.

Here's one of the full recipes, complete with its accompanying photo...

Flounder with crab stuffing

  • 6 pan-dressed flounder (¾ pound each), fresh or frozen
  • Crab Stuffing
  • ¾ cup butter or margarine, melted
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Paprika
Thaw frozen fish. Clean, wash, and dry fish. To make a pocket for the stuffing lay the fish flat on a cutting board, light side down. With a sharp knife cut down the center of the fish along the backbone from the tail to about 1 inch from the head end. Turn the knife flat and cut the flesh along both sides of the backbone to the tail allowing the knife to run over the rib bones.

Stuff fish loosely. Combine butter, lemon juice, and salt. Cut 6 pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil, 18 x 18 inches each. Grease lightly. Place 2 tablespoons sauce on foil. Place fish in sauce. Top each fish with 1 tablespoon sauce and sprinkle with paprika. bring the foil up over the fish and close all edges with tight double folds. Make 6 packages. Place packages on a grill about 6 inches from moderately hot coals. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serves 6.

"What have you done to him? What have you done to his eyes, you maniacs!"

1. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: "In 1970, the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries was transferred to the Department of Commerce and renamed the National Marine Fisheries Service."
2. To be very clear, the Tuna Waldorf Salad includes apples, celery, nutmeats, mayonnaise and lettuce. In addition to the tuna, of course. Hopefully, the Fawltys haven't just run out of them.

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