Our family has been enjoying summer vacations on the North Carolina coast since our now grown children were babies. Over the years we developed a routine of spending one day during the vacation in Beaufort, North Carolina, a little fishing village founded in 1709. Our favorite pass-time was sitting on the dock watching the boats come and go. It's such a peaceful place, but for the energetic there's plenty more to do!
The Beaufort Mariner's Museum recently opened a new exhibit featuring the Queen Anne's Revenge—Black Beard's Pirate Ship which came to its final resting place at the bottom of the ocean just off the Beaufort coast. Pirate lore is a big part of the mystique of Beaufort. If you don't believe it, take the evening Ghost Tour.
An old English double decker bus gives daily tours of the beautiful old homes, gardens, churches and cemeteries which are part of the Beaufort Historical Society. The tour ends at a small village area that has been restored to give visitors an idea of life in the seaside town during the 1700's.
There is boat building at the Watercraft Center. Wild horses graze on Shackleford Banks and Carrot Island which is only a few hundred yards across the waterway from the dock. Water taxis travel back and forth to Cape Lookout Light House just on the other side of Shackleford Banks.
There's also wonderful food. Each little restaurant has it's own specialty—oysters from Sharpies, crab cakes from Still Water, shrimp salad from Spouters, lemon meringue pie from Clawsons, Tuna Napoleon from Beaufort Grocery, Caesar Salad and a variety of small plates from Aqua, just to name a few of the culinary temptations you'll find.
I couldn't resist trying to recreate some of our family favorites. Grouper is a fish we often order, and this is how I like to dish it up at home. Thanks to Chef Charles Park from Beaufort Grocery for teaching me the basics! Hope you enjoy!
Pecan Encrusted Grouper with Browned Butter Sauce
4 Grouper filets (~6oz/each and ~one and one-half inches thick)
(You can certainly use another mild fish, even tilapia, but you will have to adjust the cooking time according to the thickness. )
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
6 T butter, divided
one-half cup small pecan pieces (I pulsed pecan halves in a food processor several times)
12 grape tomatoes, halved
2 tsp. Grey Poupon mustard
Preheat oven to 400°.
Gently dry fish with a paper towel, then add a small amount of olive oil lightly coating each piece. Salt and pepper both sides of fish.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter in an oven proof skillet over medium heat.
Pour pecans into a shallow dish and coat each piece of fish, pressing the fish into the pecans so they will adhere.
Place coated fish pieces into heated pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, until underside is browning. Turn fish and place pan in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Meanwhile, add remaining butter to small pan over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes stirring occasionally. Cook until butter begins to foam. Remove from heat when it begins to brown and stir in the mustard. Set sauce aside.
Serve fish over rice with sauteed spinach. Top with browned butter sauce.
(I added a few tender asparagus tips to the sauce.)