Last week, I received an unexpected phone call from two of my good buddies, Will Darsey and Neal Patterson. Both of them, along with Neal’s daughter Catherine, were on a two-day, private-charter fishing trip out of Key West, Fla.
They reported that the first day of fishing was off the Marquesas Keys, an uninhabited group of islands that consist primarily of mangrove trees and coral reefs that are about 30 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the same region where Mel Fisher found the famous sunken Spanish treasure ship Atoisha with its multi-million dollar bounty of gold, silver, emeralds and other valuable artifacts.
Will said the fishing was great and the weather was even better! The first day’s catch included 23 yellow tail snappers, four mangrove snappers, one barracuda, one Spanish mackerel and a host of other fish that Will said he was not able to identify so he threw them back in.
On the second day, the fishing party moved into the Atlantic close to the Gulf Stream. The weather did not cooperate; as Neal put it, “It was rough as a cob.” Nonetheless, the fishing party rode out the high seas, the rain and the fierce lightning. Neal said it’s amazing how much religion you get when you’re caught in a storm in the middle of the Gulf Stream with no land in sight and no possibility of escape.
The storm continued for several hours and then subsided. Afterward, the captain anchored the boat in about 50 feet of water, set out a bag of menhaden chum and the fishing action shifted into high gear.
During the next four hours, the fishing party reeled in 26 yellow tails, 15 blue fish, eight Spanish mackerels, five mangrove snappers, two mutton snappers, two bonitos and another barracuda. Neal said it almost was like a feeding frenzy, and the only reason the fishing action stopped was because they ran out of bait. A variety of bait was used on this trip, including frozen shrimp, squid, cut mullet, mud minnows and pin fish. However, the Spanish mackerel were caught on silver spoons except for one that Will caught with a pinfish.
With this week’s fishing report centering on Key West, I thought it appropriate to share a Key West recipe known as Cuban fish soup. It’s unbelievably delicious.
1 and ½ quarts of water
1 pound of fresh white fish
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup tomato paste
¼ teaspoon of saffron
Several sprigs of parsley
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of dry white wine
Dash of ground oregano
Dash of ground pepper
¼ teaspoon vinegar
1 tablespoon pure Spanish olive oil plus ¼ cup pure Spanish olive oil
½ teaspoon of salt or to taste
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
¼ pound dried bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
Place all ingredients (except potatoes, bread and ¼ cup olive oil) in a three-quart pot.
Bring to a boil and cook over medium-low heat for 1 ½ hours or until liquid is reduced to about half the original amount. Add potatoes and cook about 20 minutes. Partially mash potatoes with a masher. Lightly brown the pieces of bread in the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil in a separate pan.
Add the bread to the soup before serving. Serves six.