Would You Eat Gafftopsail Catfish and Sand Fleas?


“Trash Fish and Bait” Dish wins Alabama Seafood Cook-Off

Imagine heading down to the shore at Orange Beach and scooping up enough sand fleas for a fishing excursion to the Perdido Pass jetties, where all you catch are gafftopsail catfish.

Then imagine taking those gafftops, considered a nuisance fish by most anglers, and heading to Zeke’s Landing to create the winning dish at the 8th annual Alabama Seafood Cook-Off.

That’s basically what Brody Olive, executive chef at Perdido Beach Resort, did last week to claim the top prize at the Alabama Gulf Seafood-sponsored event, where four of the top chefs in Alabama were given an hour to create delectable dishes out of fresh Gulf seafood.

Olive and sous chef Luis Silvestre created “Fishing on the Rocks, the Jetties at Perdido Pass” with gafftop catfish smoked over scrub oak coal with flash-fried mole crabs, Gulf shrimp horseradish cream, pickled purslane and smoked paprika coral tuile.

“I’m kind of surprised,” said Olive, who also won the Cook-Off in 2017. “We just went outside the box and had a little fun with it, pushing the envelope a little bit. We decided whatever happens happens, and it came together.

“To all of the fishermen out there, it’s all about fishing and not necessarily catching. We served gafftop catfish, and there’s some stigma about the fish. Some people throw it back. We took the catfish, cut the ribs out of them and smoked them over some scrub oak. We pickled a little purslane (leafy plant that some people consider a weed) that’s common on the Gulf Coast. Our fish were pretty small, so we cooked up our bait too. We made a shrimp horseradish sauce that we pureed into a nice little foam. Then we had mole crabs, pompano candy, which is like a little softshell crab and added a little crunchy texture to the dish. We added a little smoked black garlic sea salt and some chili flakes.”

Olive, who won $2,500 from the Alabama event, advances to the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans later this summer.

The “trash-fish and bait” dish beat out a runner-up dish of seared red snapper over crab salad served up by Sam Adams of (small batch) restaurant in Birmingham. It also beat out a dry-aged swordfish dish as well as crab cakes served with a red shrimp salad.

– DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

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