Nov 4, 2010

Camp Fishing 2010: Fish w/ Provencal Sauce

About 2 weeks ago, we went on a fishing trip with my parents, brothers, and their families.  Every year we all meet up at a camp down near the toe of our boot-shaped Louisiana, nestled between the Mississippi River and the gnarled fingers of the Gulf of Mexico.  A place where most structures sit on stilts.  There's not a lot of solid ground down there.

Morning along the bayou

from Google Maps

Last year's trip, pictures, and fish po'boy recipe

While we all had a good time, something's been eating at me.  Something that lurked around us, sniffed around us that whole trip. 

No.  Not the big alligator slinking around the boat.

It's something I think we all felt but didn't talk about much.  Only short, stiff, point out the obvious type of comments. 

Comments like, "sure is diff'rent this year," and "feels kinda weird."

But definitely not the delve deep into the why type of comments.


Because the possible why is too troubling.

This time of year, the fishin' is usually awesome.  Like non-stop action, have to stop and count fish because we can't keep up awesome.  This trip...not so much.  Sure, we caught some.  But nothing like in the past.

40-45 pound drum caught on The Boy's little Zebco pole
This one was let go--too big to eat
But it gave us plenty of excitement
I can live with that.  I've been fishing long enough to know that's how fishing goes.  Some ci, comme ça.

What troubled me was the lack of non-fish wildlife.  Every year we've seen large numbers of egrets.  Usually massive numbers rise up out of the marsh as we drive on the shell road that cuts through to the camp.  Huge white clouds of them, taking off out of the twisted moss covered trees, spooked by the noise of the car.  This year I can count on one hand the number we saw.

Every year we see many herons either flying by along the bayou or wading in the marsh, feeding.  This year I saw one.  One.

And every year, one of the highlights of the trip is seeing huge numbers of brown pelicans, our state bird.  We watch them sit on pilings with their massive pouched bills tucked into their chests, making them look smug yet shy at the same time.  Or we play with them when they swarm us as we clean fish on the dock.  The kids love tossing the scraps in the air or water and watching the pelicans dive for the fish carcasses.  This year we spotted not one single pelican.  Not. A. One.

And it isn't just the birds.  We usually hear packs of coyotes howling in the distance across the marsh while we fish off the dock at night.  This year...silence.

So the questions I know we all asked ourselves, but dared not ask each other because saying them out loud would have been too much...

is it the oil spill?
will things return to normal?

At least the moon and sun were still there.
Evening fishing on Lake Hermitage
the just about full moon on one side of the boat

and sunset on the other side


It's hard to be enthusiastic about food (or anything) after thinking about all this.  But I had planned a fish recipe for this week figuring that would be fitting for us this time of year.

This is my mom's recipe: Fish w/ Provençal Sauce.  Not something she made when I was coming up; it's something fairly new.  One of my brothers gave it its name because of the tomatoes, olives, and general feel the sauce gives.

Mise en place for Fish w/ Provençal Sauce:
firm, white flesh fish
olive oil
chopped onion & garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
bay leaf
green and black olives
salt and pepper to taste
*Ro-tel could be used for the diced tomatoes
*dried thyme and/or oregano could also be added
I'm using fish we caught during a fishing trip to Empire, LA in late August
If I know the fish we catch is going to be in the freezer for a while, I like to freeze it in water to help protect it.
Some people say this dilutes the flavor of the fish, but I haven't found that to be the case. 
However, the fish I usually freeze is firm, not delicate.

Heat olive oil in a skillet.  Add onion and garlic and saute until tender.
Add the canned tomatoes and their juices.

Season with salt, pepper, and bay leaf.  And add the olives.
For a lot of recipes, I tend to lean towards skipping the bay leaf if I'm out.
But not here.
Here, you can actually taste and smell it.

Simmer until most of the liquid evaporates.

While the sauce simmers, work on the fish. 
What type of work is up to you.
I like fish (and chicken) lightly dredged in seasoned flour and sauteed.
You could skip the flour.
You could bake your fish.
You could poach it in the sauce.
You could broil.
Lots of possibilities.  I like that.
But since the sauce in on the healthy side,
I need to balance that out right quick.

Melt butter and olive oil in a skillet.
Lightly dredge fish in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and cayenne.
Shake off the excess.
Saute, turning halfway through, until fish is cooked.

Remove the bay leaf and top fish with the sauce.

I love sauces like this...ones that use ingredients I tend to have around and ones that are versatile.
My mom also uses this sauce for chicken.  She places boneless chicken breasts in a baking dish with the sauce, tops with feta cheese, and bakes until the chicken is done.  I could see this working with pork chops too.
I've tossed the leftover sauce with leftover pasta for a quick lunch.

To make meal planning easier, I like to keep a list (mental or on paper) of recipes like this that can do double or triple duty.

Another easy, versatile recipe I like to use is Ellie Krieger's
Like my mom's recipe above, this is good on just about anything you happen to have...chicken, pork, steak, or added to roasted or boiled potatoes.

Linked to
Hun...What's for Dinner
 photo SimpleSupperTuesday_zps93ff0e49.jpg

Tip Day Thursday Carnival @ Around My Family Table

Provençal Sauce
from Ms. enPlace's Mama

1 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup onion, chopped fine
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp sliced green olives
3 Tbsp sliced black olives (such as Kalamata)
salt and pepper to taste
* dried thyme and/or oregano can also be added
* Rotel can be used in place of the diced tomatoes for a spicier sauce

Heat oil in a saucepan. Sauté the onions and garlic until tender. Add diced tomatoes and juices. Season with salt, pepper, the bay leaf, and dried herbs, if using. Also add the olives. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until sauce is desired consistency. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Serving suggestions:
Serve over baked, broiled, or sautéed fish
Poach fish fillets in the sauce as it simmers
Serve over baked, broiled, or sautéed chicken
Bake boneless/skinless chicken breasts in the sauce, topped with feta cheese
Toss leftover sauce with pasta


  1. It must have been so hard to be there and then to revisit the horrid memory of silence when you wrote this post. I feel for you, for your family, your state, our gulf...

  2. Hard hearing about the spill, but you had to see first hand, the effects of it. Sorry it was so eerie.

    That recipe looks great, by the way!!

  3. Good recipe, nice pictures and I enjoyed reading your blog. We live near the gulf and have been trying to get down and eat seafood as much as we can. Give business to the local merchants in restaurants, bars and stores.
    It's been very difficult for the people in the gulf area, trying to get their lives back.
    Great post.

  4. Wonderful pictues and the sauce looks tasty! Thanks!

  5. While I am sure writing the post was with mixed emotions, I appreciate the first hand thoughts and the comparison to previous years. I lived in Hawaii when hurricane Iniki hit and one thing that I learned from that experience was the resilience of mother nature. I am hopeful that next year you will see more birds and hear the sounds return that you remember. That was one big fish in that picture! Thanks for sharing.

  6. I'm sorry to hear about how different things were this year. The whole thing gives me that sick feeling in my stomach and I can only imagine how I'd feel if I grew up there. Let's hope that you'll see a return of wildlife next year. Hopefully with time things will go back to the way they were before.

    The fish looks delicious though and I like how you had to balance out the healthy sauce with a good dousing of flour and butter ;-)

  7. That makes me sad.
    You wrote about it so wonderfully (if that is the right word). I mean it made me feel the errie silence that you and your family were feeling.
    It worries me. It's such a unique part of the United States. I want so much to visit one day...and I want the wildlife to be there when I do.

    The fish does look good.....

  8. WOW! Thanks for sharing your story and the pictures. The sauce looks great....I've never tried a sauce like that, but it sounds delicious.
    Thanks for linking up to Tip Day Thursday at Around My Family Table. Link up anytime!


  9. Thanks for the comments, everyone. SSI-thanks for sharing your experience with hurricane Iniki.

  10. YU-UM!!! Lovin this sauce Michelle and my daughter would love it too, since she's nuts about olives. Thanks for sharing on Simple Supper Tuesday!

  11. OH my. Great post! Full of summer and good-cooking! Thanks for everything.


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