Welcome to my cooking page. These recipes have all been tested and tasted at the Paynederosa, or by members at family events.
Grilled Striped Bass..
Over the years, I have toyed with the thought of writing a cook book. It seems that multitudes have had and continue to have the same idea, with the result that society is saturated with cook books. Of course, there is always room for another great book, whatever the subject. However, considering that the world isn’t beating down my door to write such a book, coupled with my advancing age, convinces me that I should leave the task to others. In our family, an excellent candidate to take up the pen is nephew Steve Payne. Not only is Steve a really talented Chef, he is also a sportsman and connoisseur of fish and game. In Steve’s hands, a grill becomes a fine instrument which he plays to perfection; much like a great violinist would play a rare Stradivarius. In all fairness, Steve has had help in attaining this recognition and skills through the accomplishments and teaching of others, namely his father Dr. William Payne and his grandfather Myrl Payne, with added input by his grandmother, mother and wife.
Nephew Steve, a dentist as his father, is also a taxidermist and has preserved many fish and wild game specimen that he has caught or shot. As a result, he has a rather extensive and interesting museum in his home, including a first class gun collection. One of the guns in his collection is a double barreled 12 gauge shotgun which belonged to his grandfather Clyde Wells Payne, my father. Dad was an expert with the old shotgun, although 90 years ago the gun was not so old and it was an annual event to go hunting on Thanksgiving Day to provide provender for the table. Living on a farm, such practice was not a necessity, but it was a tradition and fun and looked forward to with great expectations. Dad always managed to find something to shoot; perhaps a couple of mallards, a wild goose, or a few quail, but most often our game comprised two or three rabbits which were always in good supply. Of course, there is no finer fare than a fried young cotton tail rabbit with biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy. In any case, I am positive that many of Steve’s creations will grace the walls and shelves of some museum at a future time. Some of Steve’s artifacts are useful, such as a letter opener made using a wild turkey foot; others are works of art and others are just plain curious or humorous. An example of the latter is a stuffed or preserved head of a large striped bass, fitted with human teeth, or canine teeth,one of which I have in my Den. Needless to say, many guests have been startled to be greeted by this fish, staring menacingly at them with its unusual, strange looking dentures.
Several years ago, niece Carole Payne Bean compiled a cook book of family recipes which she made available as handouts at a reunion. The recipe book contains several fish and game recipes provided by nephews Bill and Steve. I will include a couple herein and post them on the Paynederosa web site.
The raw prairies of Kansas and the home spun people that settled the great state have long gone the way of the Buffalo, but many characteristics and ways of the original settlers have remained. While people of the Mid West maintain that they are the only Americans without an accent, it is never the less true, as a general rule, that they do listen politely, choose their words carefully and speak softly. This is often reflected in their writing, as you will note in the following recipes. Bill and Steve are highly skilled in the ways to harvest nature’s provender and how to prepare it for consumption. Let us consider one or two of Bill’s fish recipes.
As noted, Bill is an avid fisherman and has tested the waters from Canada to South America and with great success. If he were so inclined, he could regale us with volumes of fishing tales, about catching walleye, salmon and pike in Canada, bass and other game fish in Mexico and South America, not to mention the savory blue gills and other species of pan fish that we find in our rivers and lakes in the United States. Let us see what Bill has to say about frying fish:
To quote Bill: “It is a well established fact that the tastiest fish of all is the mighty, but tiny Blue Gill, closely followed by Crappie, Walleye and Bass. We are also aware that the only acceptable preparation for these species is to sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the filets, dip the pieces in a beaten egg and roll them in a mixture of flour and corn meal and deep fry. When the filets float, they are done.”
From the above we can safely deduce that Mid Westerner’s have rather firm beliefs, at least when it comes to cooking and seasoning fish. The foregoing may not be in the form of a traditional recipe, but it is short, explicit, and easy to follow and gets the job done. It is easy to agree that the species that Bill mentions, starting with the blue gill, are certainly among the most savory to be found. Many have never had the opportunity to taste some of these fish as, being wild, they are seldom if ever found in the market place. While the walleye and bass grow to a size that enables filleting, the small blue gill is often fried whole, less the fins, scales and intestines. At least that was true for the blue gill that I caught so long ago in the Marmaton River and Paint Creek, in Bourbon County, KS. Bill doesn’t tell us how much oil to use in the frying process, but he does say “when the filets float, they are done.” This implies that there is considerable oil in the skillet. To that, I will merely add that cooking over a campfire, a few strips of bacon will provide plenty of grease to fry the delectable blue gill and it will never get any better. Of course being outdoors, young and having an appetite that would put a Billy Goat to shame, probably had something to do with the taste.
You are probably aware that the Striped Bass, also known as Stripers, is a native of salt water and is highly regarded all along our Eastern Seaboard, and elsewhere, as a quality game fish. Normally, the Striper’s spawn in fresh water and then return to the sea, but if for some reason it cannot return, the fish does very well spending the remainder of its life in fresh water. Thus, many who have never fished in salt water are familiar with striped bass. It has a life span of some 30 years and growing, in some instances, to over six feet in length and weighing upwards of 50-60 pounds.
Even though stripers reach the same size as they would in salt water, they do not always reproduce as well without the exposure to salt water migration. There are exceptions, one being lake Texoma, on the Oklahoma-Texas Border. Others are the Arkansas and Colorado Rivers as well as numerous other lakes and rivers in the United States and elsewhere. Lake Texoma is a favorite fishing spot for Bill and Steve and whether or not the fish population is augmented by stocking, it is loaded with striped bass. Steve once told me that they have caught so many stripers on fishing trips to Texoma that they just quit hauling them in, due to fatigue and I have seen the photos that prove it. Of course, most were returned to the water as they only retained what they needed to eat on the trip and to freeze for later consumption.
Bill’s favorite recipe and method of grilling Striped Bass follows:
“In preparing the fish for the grill, great care must be taken to ensure that the red strip, corresponding to the lateral line or stripe on the fish, be removed. Generously coat the fillets with soy sauce and marinate overnight or for several hours, under refrigeration. Sprinkle the filets with a little lemon pepper and grill over low heat. It is best to cook the filets in a basket (grill topper) as the filets have a tendency to flake or fall apart when you turn them.”
The foregoing is a simple recipe which you can embellish as you may wish, but as it is, makes for mighty good eating. Bill adds, “my favorite method for cooking trout is to grill them with a honey-mustard glaze. Sprinkle the trout with a little Cajun seasoning and cook them in a grill topper. Use an equal amount of honey and mustard and a dab of butter, brushing the glaze on the fish as you turn them.” As you can see, we are dealing with a bit of this and a dab of that, but anyone who has done much cooking can deal with those instructions. Bill and Steve presently live in the Arkansas Ozarks and do considerable trout fishing in the many rivers, streams and lakes that abound there.
Growing up in eastern Kansas during the depression and Dust Bowl years, one seldom if ever saw a deer or a wild turkey. The depression was far more responsible for the lack of such game than the weather as many people resorted to hunting to supply food for the table. The lack of adequate hunting laws to protect game was also a contributing factor. Today, with enforced game laws on the books, controlled hunting seasons and bag limits, deer and turkey abound in most areas in the Mid West. Nephew Steve and grand nephews, Garett and Logan Payne make sure that they get their quota. However, like all good sportsmen, they only kill what they will eat and they do eat what they kill. As mentioned earlier, Steve is a past master on the grill and we will share some of his game recipes.
Don't be alarmed by the length of the recipe for eggplant parmesan, although quite frankly at my age I tend to look for the least amount of work that I can. However, his dish is so good that one should have it available, particularly if you are serving large numbers. Tom always makes up a meal for us at family reunions. His sauce is particularly good and versatile, as you shall see. So in Tom's words:
Prepare this basic outstanding marinara sauce for a variety of Italian meals and is easy to prepare. It is great with spaghetti, ravioli, eggplant, parmigiana, chicken, sausages, fish, pasta---anything using a tomato based sauce. The sauce;
4 cups diced tomatoes
1 Tbl sp olive oil 4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt 1 small can tomato paste
1 tsp pepper 1 Tbl sp sugar
Place all ingredients into a saucepan and cook on medium heat until it reaches a slow boil. Its ready! However, you may be interested in a few variables to the basic sauce---most people like the additions.
Any ingredient can be adjusted to suit the taste, just use less or more. These other additions include: lemon/lime juice, onions, green/red/yellow bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, mushrooms, peppers and any other of your favorite spices. Remember, the cardinal rule; Fresh is Better! The sauce can be used immediately, refrigerated or frozen for later use.
In the event that you do not have fresh tomatoes, the canned variety can be diced, whole or stewed, but should be reduced by dicing and also, use the juice. Depending on our preference for sauce consistency; less paste, more tomatoes = thin sauce: less tomatoes, more paste = thick sauce.
The original recipe for the eggplant Parmesan was from a Southern Living cookbook; "For the Love of Cooking, Vol. II." If you can find one, buy it. You can find one occasional in used book sales, but it has been out of print for years. The Eggplant Parmesan recipe:
2 Tbl sp's tomato paste
4 cups diced fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup olive or salad oil, divided
1 tsp sugar
1 3/4 tsp's salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, quartered
1 med sized eggplant
2 cups soft bread crumbs
2 tbl sp's chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 pound mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
Combine tomato paste, tomatoes, 2 tbl sp's oil , sugar, salt, pepper and garlic. Simmer 15 minutes or until thickened; set aside.
Pare eggplant and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Heat remaining oil in a large skillet. Add a few slices at a time and brown eggplant on both sides. Place fried eggplant in 9 x 5 x 3 inch baking dish. Combine bread crumbs, parsley and Parmesan cheese; sprinkle half the mixture over the eggplant; cover with tomato sauce. Top with remaining crumb - cheese mixture and place mozzarella cheese slices over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cheese has melted. Serve hot. Yield: 8 servings.
Okay, you now know that the basic tomato sauce varies from the original. Think about it. How many tablespoons of tomato paste are in a small can? Its eight ounces! What are you going to do, save it or, more likely, toss it? Why not use it all? Remember about the the tomato to paste ratio? --experiment! Use the same philosophy for all of the ingredients. I prefer a good extra virgin olive oil to vegetable oil. it is simply more Italian.
You will find that it will require more oil as you fry the eggplant, it soaks it up. Also, crush, rather than quarter the garlic and above all, use SOFT bread crumbs. I prefer rye bread, but any fresh bread will suffice. FRESH parsley is crucial, avoid using dried if at all possible. Only use sliced mozzarella cheese, never shredded.
I mentioned that the marinara sauce was good on a variety of dishes, so here is a bit on Ravioli.
Cook deli-fresh or frozen ravioli according to package instruction, drain and add to saucepan of simmering basic tomato sauce. Salt and pepper lightly or to taste. Serve with shredded parmigiana and or shredded mozzarella cheese. Garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley and/or a wedge of lemon/lime. Serve with Italian bread and a fresh salad for a completely satisfying meal.
Please note that garlic, onions peppers and even salt and pepper are considered to be food which can provide protection from or even cure the common cold, so don't hesitate to use them. My dad hasn't had a cold since Roosevelt's fourth inaugural and he uses all of the above in copious quantities, except for the salt.