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I’ve eaten bream all my life. In fact, I’d say that from age two to 18, bluegills as some folks call them made up a substantial part of my diet. But for all the different times and places I’ve eaten them, one thing has remained constant – they were all fried.
Seriously. Every single bream I’ve ever eaten in my entire life took its last swim in a pan of grease.
That changed last night.
Mary and I attended a barbecue and bluegrass benefit dinner to raise money for the Leaning Post Ranch, which serves as a riding academy for children with disabilities. Dinner for the event came courtesy of Pensacola caterer Mike DeSorbo, so we knew that the food would be as wonderful as the cause we were supporting.
What I didn’t count on was the last dish on the buffet table. In addition to the succotash, butter beans, cole slaw and barbecue ribs, there was a literal stack of pan fish on a platter, slightly charred with their heads on. It looked like someone just rescued them from a fire.
When I asked Mike about them, he explained that he had also grown up eating fried bream. On a lark, he decided to try smoking them instead.
I knew Mike wouldn’t have brought them out if they weren’t good, so I grabbed one, drenched it in some melted butter and dug in. I wasn’t disappointed.
The smoking process left the meat white and flaky, though it wasn’t as tender as it would have been fried. In terms of flavor, though, Mike got it just right. I could taste the smoke, but it wasn’t acrid or overpowering. He also stuffed each whole fish with a lemon slice, so it tasted fresh all the way through.
I still don’t think I would choose smoked bream over the fried variety. On the other hand, if I was feeding a large group of people, smoking a few might be a good alternative to offer those who don’t like fried foods.
Come to think of it, if you’re feeding a large group of people, you can’t go wrong with Mike DeSorbo, Dawn and the crew at Culinary Productions. And if you’re looking for a great cause to support, check out the Leaning Post Ranch. They’re doing great things there.