Hatteras Island Specialties

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Pistachio Clam Sauce

Basil Scallop Pasta

Grilling Fish Marinade

 

 

Introduction

These recipes have been developed over the last five years while at my beach house on Hatteras Island, part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  The outer banks are a very thin chain of islands starting at the Virginia border and running south to mid-state.  There is only one inlet from the ocean (Oregon Inlet), about halfway down, until the strand turns and heads southwest toward the mainland.  Hatteras Island begins south of Oregon Inlet and encloses the Pamlico Sound between itself and the North Carolina mainland, which at its widest is more than thirty miles across.  This is mostly very shallow water that serves as major habitat and spawning grounds for many Atlantic Coast fish species, and the fishing is fabulous.

Nothing is better than paddling my kayak out into the shallow waters of the Pamlico Sound on a bright summer morning, loaded down with fishing gear and cooler.  The closest good fishing hole that I have found is about a mile out with the water running about two feet deep most of the way.  Over the last few centuries major storms have cut new inlets in the island chain and later filled them back in.  During the periods these inlets were open to the ocean, they cut tidal channels through the shallow sound, and when they closed up, many channels and holes were left behind.  These deep spots attract schools of immature species that spawned in the sound, making them the ideal fishing grounds for speckled sea trout (my favorite), gray trout, small bluefish, flounder, and small stripers.

Early and late in the year when the sound waters are cold, I am confined to the Kayak, which is a frustrating experience when trying to net a soft-mouthed trout and get it into the cooler that is by necessity behind me in the tight confines of the Kayak.  I lose a lot, but enough go into the cooler to provide all the fresh fish one might desire, even with lots of guests.  Once the spring weather has warmed the water, I paddle to one of these holes (maybe one to two hundred yards long and half as wide) where I throw out the anchor and get out of the Kayak.

I occasionally forget how mean the wind is on the ocean and try to fly fish in the best spirit of sporting adventure, but I usually come to my senses after smacking myself about the head and shoulders for a while and trade the fly rod for a light spinning rod.  When the fish are hitting, you can catch plenty on the fly rod, but it is a chore unless you catch one of those rare days at the ocean where the winds are light.  With the limited tackle space in the Kayak and the time and effort it takes to get out to the fishing holes, you just can't afford to take both kinds of gear, so you have to chose before you go out.  In the kayak, I usually just take spinning gear.  When I take the sixteen-foot, aluminum john boat (mostly when I have guests) I can luxuriate in taking everything.

Fishing with either fly rod or spinning rod is strictly with artificial baits.  Actually, they seem to work better for the species I like to take, since you don't have all the trash fish to feed and continuously take off the hook.  You only get the fish that feed up the chain on minnows, which your artificial is imitating.  While I love to make my own lures and catch fish on them, the standard bait for the Pamlico Sound is the ubiquitous plastic grub.  The consistent favorite being the chartreuse, metal-flake, four inch variety on a 1/8 to 3/16 inch jig head.

These lighter jig heads don't sink so rapidly into the grass lying on the bottom of the hole (about six to ten feet usually), but they don't cast as well into the wind as the heavier variety.  The slower sink rate also allows you to retrieve your grub slower, which seems to get more fish.  The lighter jigs are tied to mostly six-pound test monofilament but sometimes eight-pound if you are catching something larger than the eighteen to twenty inch trout.  After loosing many jig heads to the sharp-toothed aggressiveness of bluefish over a pound, I have taken to using a two foot bite leader of fourteen-pound fluorocarbon.  The big ones still get away, but you can't cast light jigs with heavy line, so this is the best compromise I have devised.

The sound is a great source of shellfish.  I get my own clams with a clam rake and my own hard crabs occasionally, but I get my shrimp, soft crabs, and bay scallops from Wanchese, a nearby fishing community where the boats are harbored.  Fresh, ocean fish species are available year-round from numerous stores on the Outer Banks.  But enough digression about how fresh the seafood is in these recipes.  On to the recipes.

 

 

 

Pistachio Clam Sauce

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6 medium to large clams

1-½ Tbls light olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic

3 Tbls pistachios, finely chopped – 30 nuts

3 Tbls butter

½ cup chicken stock

1-½ Tbls cornstarch

1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese

salt

white pepper

 

Mince clams and finely chop or crush the garlic. Sauté clams in olive oil until most of the tissue liquid has been cooked away and they begin to brown slightly at the edges. Add garlic and continue cooking until the garlic just starts to lightly brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add butter and nuts. As soon as the butter has melted, add cornstarch dissolved in chicken stock, and stir constantly for at least five minutes for the cornstarch to cook thoroughly. Add more chicken stock if required to thin sauce to desired consistency, but do not thin so much it puddles in the plate rather than coat the pasta.

Pour clam sauce over your favorite pasta (well drained) and toss with parmesan (Reggiano is my choice but some prefer Romano) cheese. Makes enough sauce for one and one-half cups of uncooked mini-penné, two cups of medium pasta shells, or six ounces of linguini. Makes two large servings. If multiplying the recipe for a larger group, use only enough light olive oil to properly sauté the clams and garlic.

Note that this recipe can be very successfully varied by substituting one and one-half cups of chopped bay scallops or one cup of shrimp for the clams.  You can also change the nuts to walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, or almonds.

This dish calls for a heavy-duty chardonnay, a light pinot noir, or a dry grenache to match up with the pungent flavor of the clams.  It can also stand a little sweetness if you like slightly sweet wines like a riesling.  The variations will do well with these same wines except for the walnuts, which really need one of the recommended reds.

 

 

 

 

Basil Scallop Pasta

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¾ pound of bay scallops

½ cup of finely chopped fresh basil

1-½ Tbls light olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic

3 Tbls pecans, finely chopped

3 Tbls butter

½ cup chicken stock

1-½ Tbls cornstarch

1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese

salt

white pepper

 

Sauté scallops about eight minutes and scallops have shrunk visibly as much of their tissue liquid has been cooked away. Finely chop or crush garlic and add to the mixture, cooking until the garlic begins to brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add butter and nuts. As soon as the butter has melted, add cornstarch dissolved in chicken stock, and stir constantly for at least four minutes for the cornstarch to cook thoroughly. Add more chicken stock if required to thin sauce to desired consistency, but do not thin so much it puddles in the plate rather than coat the pasta.

Pour scallop sauce over your favorite pasta (well drained) and toss with parmesan (Reggiano is my choice but some prefer Romano) cheese. Makes enough sauce for one and one-half cups of uncooked mini-penné, two cups of medium pasta shells, or six ounces of linguini. Makes two large servings. If multiplying the recipe for a larger group, use only enough light olive oil to properly sauté the scallops and garlic.

Note that this recipe can be very successfully varied by substituting one cup of chopped shrimp or six medium to large clams for the scallops.  You can also change the nuts to walnuts, pine nuts, or almonds.

The delicate flavor of scallops leaves us really matching the wine more for the pecans, which needs a good medium bodied chardonnay having little or no oak, or a sturdy sauvignon blanc.  If you are trying a variant, you're on your own, but remember that the nuts are in there and not just the meat.

 

 

 

 

Grilling Fish Marinade

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¼ cup gin

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

8 medium-sized pepperoncini peppers

1 large clove of garlic

1 tsp. salt

 

Remove the stems, but leave the seeds and the brine vinegar in the peppers. Peel the garlic. Blend all the ingredients. Place fish for grilling in a strong ziplock plastic bag and add marinade. Try to seal the bag with a minimum of air trapped inside. Refrigerate at least overnight, turning the bag over a few times. Save the marinade when the fish is removed for grilling. Baste grilling meat with the marinade when it is turned.

This marinade is particularly good for the stronger flavored fish like bluefish, king mackerel, cobia, and amberjack.  However, it's good on any of the larger fish that can stand up to grilling without falling to pieces on the grill.

 

 

 

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