Some of you out there may have been curious as to where we’ve been the past week or so – we’ve been catching some sun down on Navarre Beach in Florida. We had a blast: perfect weather, wonderful accommodations, and (of course) some really great food. First, a big “thank you” to the owners of the condo we stayed in, 501 Summerwind West, because it was one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed. Secondly (and even more important), special thanks to Jess’ mom and dad who found the condo and invited us to stay in the first place. The water was perfect, and we spent a lot of our time down on the beach and on Navarre Beach Pier, swimming and soaking up the sun. Lucky for us, the condo had a full kitchen, so after getting acquainted with it by cooking up a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and bagels, we decided to head into town to see if there were any fish markets around.
After a bit of internet-sleuthing, we found our way to the Navarre Seafood Market, a quaint and nondescript building right on the Navarre Parkway. The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was that the place didn’t smell like fish at all, even though there were iced fillets and shrimp to be seen in a display case. I took this as a very good sign that the fish available was fresh and good. The gentleman behind the counter was pleasant and straightforward; he showed us what he had available that was local, and after we expressed interest in some grouper fillets he discussed ways of cooking and how much we’d need to feed our dinner party. I was impressed with how clean everything was, and we left with two lovely grouper fillets and some Gulf shrimp.
We decided to do our shrimp as an appetizer, and since we had some bacon left over from breakfast it only seemed right to make bacon-wrapped shrimp. While I got other things ready for dinner, I let the peeled and de-veined shrimp marinate in some sea salt, lime juice, red pepper, and crushed garlic for a few minutes, then Jess and I wrapped them in small pieces of sliced bacon. I popped them into a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, and I don’t even think it took us that long to polish off the plate – they were really good. The shrimp were tasty, especially since we’re used to the frozen variety in these parts.
For our main course, we baked the grouper with just a bit of salt and pepper – I like the flavor of the fish and didn’t want to overburden it with too many spices. I decided on some garlic mashed potatoes (with skin, just like Jess likes them) and steamed asparagus for side dishes. To top things off, I made a sort of mock-bernaise for the fish: reduce one cup of white wine down to just under 1/2 cup, then put in a blender with three egg yolks and a dash of salt and pepper. Melt a stick of butter with a couple of tablespoons of shallots, cooking over low heat until the butter foam subsides. Strain the butter and slowly add it to the blender (very slowly) to create an emulsion. It’s a smooth, very creamy sauce – and as long as you don’t add the butter too fast, it isn’t very hard. It was a hit!
After dinner was over, we all headed back down to the beach to enjoy the wonderful Florida sunset over the Gulf. The temperature had dropped down to the mid-50s, and the steady breeze gave us a bit of a chill as we listened to the waves softly crash into the sand. I’ve had some really great days, and made some really good meals, but I think that the surroundings and the fresh ingredients really made this meal something special. Navarre is a nice, quiet town, and even though it isn’t far from more popular places like Destin, it still has a good small-town vibe that really put us at ease – plus the seafood market was excellent! Happy cooking!