November 15, 2020
“When I was a kid, probably 8 or 9, I remember seeing a version of this recipe in one of my mother’s old cookbooks. The picture of the dish was crudely drawn and the recipe simple, but it must have sparked my interest. I’ve made this recipe many, many times now with all kinds of fish and vegetables. The flavors and smell of the grilled cornhusks and the steamed vegetables are as memorable as that old recipe”. -Chef Jimmy D. Kennedy
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
- 4 ears fresh corn
- Cotton string
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup (1-inch pieces) fresh okra or 1 cup frozen cut okra
- Salt to taste
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 1 1⁄2 to 2 pounds crappie fillets
- Pull back husk from each ear of corn carefully, leaving it still attached at the base. Remove and discard silk. Snap off ear and set aside. Place husks in a large pot of water to soak, along with 8 pieces of string, each about 10 inches long.
- Stand each ear of corn up on end while husks soak; with a sharp knife, cut off kernels from top to base (you should have about 2 cups total).
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in a heavy saucepan. Add onion and cook until just beginning to soften. Add tomatoes, okra, and corn. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until okra is tender; season with salt and pepper, then cover and set aside to keep warm.
- Remove husks and string from water, shaking them dry. Place a couple of the fillets inside each husk; season with salt and pepper. Carefully close husks around fillets, tying top with a piece of soaked string. Add a second piece of string around the middle if needed.
- Preheat grill to medium-low. Place fish packets on the grill and cook for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. With a fork, check the middle of one packet to see I fish flakes easily. When fish is done, place on plates. Open husks and spoon some of the warm corn mixture on top of fish.
Almost endless are the many different species of panfish and sunfish, even largemouth and smallmouth bass are a member of the sunfish family. While most anglers practice catch and release for largemouth and smallmouth, other members of the sunfish family are more sought after for table fare, with crappie at the top of the list. Crappie, or sac-a-lait or specks, as we referred to them as kids, are highly regarded as table fare and I couldn’t agree more. The seasons for crappie vary from state to state, but they are long and generous, with many anglers devoting their entire season toward catching and cooking both crappie species, black and white. The season is all year long too for this very popular fish. Crappie can be caught in the spring as the water warms and they move to their spawning areas, in the summer and fall in large schools near timber and brush piles, weed beds, old river channels, humps and rock piles. Personally, ice-fishing is my favorite way to fish for crappie and doing a little scouting during open water or having prior knowledge of a lake goes a long way after the lake freezes. Even then, good electronics goes a long way to filling your limit. In anyor all of the seasons, the most important part of a successful crappie fishing outing is finding the fish. Crappie are usually in schools and can be caught fairly easily on everything from live bait to small jigs to crankbaits and spinners. I’ve even caught big, slab crappie on jerkbaits and big worms while fishing for largemouth. In short, crappie are fun to catch for serious anglers as well as novices and kids and a cane pole can work as well as an expensive spinning outfit. The other reward, of course, is the what this panfish offers on the plate. I believe that many other anglers, cooks and chefs will agree with me that it’s the best tasting fish to be found in our lakes, rivers and streams.
Crappie fillets are usually breaded and deep-fried, but my favorite way to cook this delicate fish, other than this recipe obviously, is to quickly pan fry it in a couple tablespoons of butter with just a little salt and pepper and a slice or two of lemon.
For the recipe, first of all, try and catch or acquire some crappie fillets. If not possible, any other flaky, white meat fish will suffice, such as yellow perch, bluegill or bass. If all else fails, you can always pick up some flounder or haddock at the local grocery store.
About Jimmy D. Kennedy
Jimmy D. Kennedy is a chef, tournament angler, hunter, outdoorsman and proud father. His passion for cooking and the outdoors began at a very young age. Unknowingly, cooking, fishing, hunting, and gardening with family formed a farm to table lifestyle that became ingrained in Jimmy’s mind-set, not only in his cooking, but also in his lifestyle and career. These early influences taught him many important lessons which he managed to create, maintain and build upon throughout his journey from Mississippi to Vermont.