Woodland Plantation, located on the Mississippi Delta near Port Sulfur, Louisiana, was built circa 1834. Thirteen years ago, it was restored by current owner Foster Creppel and is now a renowned destination for duck hunters, anglers, and those looking to make a spiritual connection with the ghosts that haunt the plantation house. Aside from the aesthetics and history that lure customers to Woodland, Creppel’s kitchen staff is one of the finest in Louisiana, cooking up everything from steak with crawfish butter, to crab-stuffed quail. I recently spent a week chasing redfish in the Delta, and when the day was over, the Woodland folks whipped up the best redfish on the half-shell I’ve ever tasted. It’s a classic Southern dish that no two chefs prepare exactly the same. Here’s how Woodland gets down on the grill. —Joe Cermele
Serves 4 to 6
2 17- to 22-inch redfish fillets, about 2-inches thick, skin and scales left on (check state size regulations on keeper reds)
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Trim any skin and scales not attached to flesh off the fillets with poultry shears. This will mostly be found near the belly of the fillet. If you leave it on, it will curl up on the grill. Season the meat side of each fillet with the lemon pepper, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and Seafood Magic. Be careful not to over-season the fish, as it can over-power the natural flavor. When all the dry seasoning is on the meat, gently rub it around with your hand to create an even coat.
Get the grill very hot and spray it down with PAM to reduce sticking. Lay the fillets on the grill scale side down and cover the top (meat side) of the fillets with a sturdy metal baking sheet. This helps lock in the heat during the cooking process. Tin foil can work in a pinch. At no point during grilling are you going to flip the fillets. Allow them to cook uninterrupted for eight minutes. When you remove the baking sheet, the meat should be a golden color and just starting to separate from the skin. The scales should be toasted and black as coal. Move the fillets from the grill to an oven preheated to 350 degrees for another eight minutes to finish the cooking process.
The finished product created in the steps above eats just fine by itself, but most chefs top their redfish on the half-shell with a liquid to keep the dish moist. At Woodland Plantation, a simple concoction of melted butter, fresh garlic, green onion, lemon juice, and shrimp served as the topping. But plain lemon and melted butter, a drizzle of gumbo, crawfish étouffée, oyster stew, or crab bisque are other popular choices for rounding out this Southern favorite.
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