I love Old Florida and its small working towns that are missing the high-rise hotels, flashing lights and mouse-themed parks. Many are fishing towns, where local boats head out at dawn to fish the same way they've fished for generations.
In the fall you’ll start seeing spray-painted signs advertising smoked mullet. Many people will tell you that mullet are baitfish and unfit to eat. The folks 'round here know that's wrong.
Fried, grilled, blackened or smoked, the humble mullet graces the menus of restaurants ranging from white-linen tablecloth affairs to screened-porch, mom-and-pop shops. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a bad mullet meal, but smoked mullet is my favorite. I eat it straight off the bone by the fingerful as a snack, mixed into creamy smoked-mullet dips, or for breakfast in this Smoked Mullet Eggs Benedict.
One of our favorite stops for smoked mullet along Florida’s Forgotten Coast is the small Mineral Springs Seafood in Panacea, Florida. The folks there spend their days processing and selling locally caught seafood. This time of year, they process alligators and smoke rack after rack of mullet. They do a fine job at both.
The creamy, lemony Hollandaise Sauce is the perfect accompaniment to the salty, oily smoked fish. Placed on a toasted English muffin and topped with either a poached or an over-easy fried egg, this dish makes the perfect Sunday brunch.
Don’t be afraid of the sauce; just use a double boiler setup of a glass bowl perched atop a pot of boiling water. Take your time and the sauce will come together easily.
4 eggs, either poached or fried over-easy
4 English muffin halves, toasted
1 large or 2 medium smoked mullet
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon shredded parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, diced
Dash white pepper
Since the mullet is already cooked, you just need to warm the fish before serving. I do this by placing the mullet on a baking sheet and warming it in the oven as the English muffins toast.
While the fish warms, fry or poach the eggs and build the sauce. Whisk the egg yolks, water and lemon juice until blended. Cook the sauce on a double boiler or in a bowl over boiling water until the mixture is just thick enough to coat a metal spoon and temperature reaches 160°, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. Very slowly drizzle in warm melted butter, whisking constantly. Whisk in the white pepper, chopped parsley and parmesan cheese. Hold the sauce over the warm water or place the bowl into a larger bowl of warm water to keep the sauce warm, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve, up to 30 minutes.
To build the Eggs Benedict, peel the smoked mullet meat from the skin. Remove the bones. Top a toasted English muffin half with 4 to 6 ounces of boneless mullet meat, then top the meat with an egg, and spoon over the Hollandaise sauce. Serve warm.
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