Kim Domick showcases grouper in her latest food column.
My cousin Dr. Anne and I recently were on vacation in Clearwater, Fla., and we were in seafood heaven.
We had crab soup, oysters and several different fish dishes. By far, the best one we had was the almond crusted grouper.
It’s a mild flavored fish (somewhere between seabass and halibut) with a light, sweet taste and large, chunky flakes – almost like lobster or crab. Because of its mild flavor, it easily absorbs marinades and sauces.
It’s excellent no matter how you prepare it.
According to food experts, grouper takes the No. 1 spot among the top four of the most delicious and best-tasting fish in Florida, ranking above snapper, snook and Mahi Mahi.
Grouper is found in every ocean on the globe. They swim slowly, and aren’t capable of swimming long distances; but if you’ve ever caught one on a line, you will attest to the fact that they’re strong and put up a great fight.
There are more than 100 species of grouper, and if they manage to evade commercial and charter fishing boats, they can grow up to 10 feet and live as long as thirty years. They can weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
That’s a lot of almond crusted dinners.
They also have the ability to change the color of the bright markings on their body to blend in with their background.
Young grouper normally live close to the coast and habitually seek protection in sea grass beds and tidal pools until they mature. Adults tend to stay on the sea bed and in coral reefs in tropical and subtropical waters.
The craziest fact about grouper, though, is that they are all born and mature as females, but can change their sex when needed to aid in reproduction. Since they tend to live in groups ranging from three to 15 females, a female could convert to male so their mating habits do not suffer. That’s called being protogynous hermaphrodites.
The name grouper comes from the Spanish word garoupa. The most common types of grouper are nassau and black. Other types include: gag, red, swamp rockhind, red hind, coney, grasby, yellow fin and yellomouth.
One of their physical attributes include their huge mouth and bulky body. They can measure more than 1 meter.
Their mouth doesn’t hold enough teeth to bite their prey, so they swallow them. They typically stay still, rather than chasing prey, and when dinner is close enough, their mouth and gills will powerfully suck the prey and swallow them whole.
A mature grouper will feed on fish such as snapper, parrotfish, octopus, crab and crustaceans. Young ones tend to live on crustaceans, plankton, microalgae, and microorganisms.
Although other fish will try to eat young grouper, an adult is only at risk from humans.
Luckily for my cousin and I, some human had the upper hand on the grouper, and the chef worked his magic with it.
The kitchen lightly floured the fish, and then crusted it with extremely thin slices of almonds. It was then pan-fried in butter, and plated on a bed of mixed greens with a light olive oil dressing.
It literally melted in our mouths.
As wonderful as our trip was, you actually don’t have to travel any further than Toledo, Ann Arbor or Telegraph Rd. in Monroe to get grouper.
You can purchase fresh grouper at Fresh Market in Toledo, and fresh fillets at Whole Foods in Toledo and Ann Arbor, and frozen fillets at Meijer in Monroe.The packages that are sold at Meijer are frozen and packaged off site.
(FYI: All ocean fish that we get in the midwest is caught and frozen on the boat, shipped frozen and thawed at the store.)
The following is an easy grouper recipe you can prepare in your own home.
With each bite, you’ll think you’re being transported to a tropical beachside café.