Bluegill Tacos// Adam Derstine
We met the Derstines through mutual friends when we were asked to prepare a surprise birthday dinner for our friend Rachel. At some point during the typical dinner party "getting to know each other" banter, they mentioned rather nonchalantly, "We have a little farm about an hour away. We raise pigs". As we remember it, "Holy Shit, are you serious!" was the initial response, followed by a barrage of questions. Thankfully, the first course was good; otherwise they may have made a run for it. Having a working farm of our own is almost at the very top of our "someday" list. They were really awesome and answered all of our (many) questions. Adam has been awesome enough to join us this week for what we hope is the start of a new series; a series about mid-west farm life, answers to all those questions we forgot to ask, or whatever the heck he wants. Hopefully the answer to one of those questions is "Yes, you can come visit us. No, you don't have to leave".
If you were so inclined (and we hope you are) you can keep up with Adam and Elise here.
This was the view from the front of the boat this spring when I went out with Kent and Tom and Tom’s 4 year-old daughter, Susana, to catch some bluegill. As you can tell, bluegill fishing isn’t exactly a high stress proposition - bobber goes down, rod goes up, then you reel in and see if you have a fish. It takes a pretty awesome 4-year old to stay engaged for 6 hours of fishing in a small boat on a windy day, but Susana was all over it, even though she wasn’t catching that many keepers. None, actually. And neither was Tom... or Kent. I managed one smallish Rock Bass - the only fish we kept all day. Not a single edible bluegill.
So you can imagine how I felt the next week when they told me they had been fishing again, on a different lake, and pulled in about 140 in a few hours. No sooner did they drop a hook in the water than it came back with a fish. Over and over again until the cooler was full.
The sad truth: fishing trips go better when I’m not on them, a fact reinforced by a very cold Saturday a few weeks ago when four of us woke up insanely early after a night of carousing, drove two hours into Michigan and spent the day not catching Steelhead in a boat best suited to two people. It didn’t help that we forgot a proper river anchor and had to hoist two scavenged concrete blocks up into the boat every time we wanted to shift location. Concrete blocks are heavy. Riverwater is cold.
So to cheer me up, Kent offered to thaw the bluegill he had never got around to eating and bring everyone over to make delicious fish tacos. It ended up being a bit of a production: ‘Beer Battered Bluegill Tacos Deep-Fried in Lard with Spicy Mayo.’ They were awesome.
BEER BATTER for FISH TACOS
1 cup all-purpose flour //2 tablespoons cornstarch //1 tsp baking powder //1/2 teaspoon salt //1 egg //1 cup beer
The process here is low-tech. There’s a big pot of bubbling melted lard and the fish get dipped in batter and dropped in the fat. They should be browned on one side and flipped. Pretty much just basic frying.
Huge bowl of bluegill fillets.
Small bit of lard melting in larger bit of lard.
This is either a monster bluegill or that one Rock Bass I caught.
Other important parts of the equation:
//~1 C Mayo //~1 T Diced Onion //Cholula
This is a pretty loose concoction - you add Cholula until it turns a light pinkish. You have to use Cholula - other hot sauces are not as awesome here.
//half head of cabbage, shredded finely //zest and juice of 2-3 limes //2T Honey //S & P //Jalapeno (if you like)
Everybody is happy.