My dad was not in the kitchen a lot when we were growing up. That’s not to say he did not have some specialties. My dad was a whiz on the ice cream maker back in the day. Not the easy, fancy ones of today. I am talking old-school all day long, rock salt using machines of yore. He would make rum raisin, strawberry, peach – whatever was in season. The texture of the end product was always in question, would it be a little runny, or would it be the perfect creamy texture? But the taste was never in doubt. The rum raisin always packed a heady punch (especially for a six-year old), the peach always tasted just like summer.
Another Jack Ahearn classic is cheesecake. My dad has a cheesecake for every occasion. His concoctions range from the classics – strawberry and lemon to the more exotic raspberry white chocolate and pumpkin. He is a veritable Cheesecake Factory.
As we grew older and mom went back to work dad stepped up more and more. It was not just ice cream and cheese cake. In the beginning it was not always the most exotic fare, perhaps a steak-um sandwich with fried potatoes. Or, another favorite was an omelet with um, fried potatoes. You might start to see a trend here. My dad is a fan of potatoes.
But a funny thing happened as we grew older, and out of the house. My parents became gourmands. And my dad was the head gourmand. While my mom has always been an excellent cook, she is very traditional and sticks to her favorites. It was my dad who was always trying new things out – from Low Country boils to Cioppino.
My dad always makes sure he has the freshest fish, vegetables and best cuts of meat. He introduced anchovies into our lives (much to my mom’s chagrin). He even made me try venison once (I hated it, still do). I view my dad’s style of cooking as innovative. He seems to posses that quality that a lot of male chefs have – love of trying new recipes, new techniques and new ingredients. To this day my dad is still one of the most inventive chefs I know. And the first to try any recipe. When I got back from Croatia and gave him the Ajvar recipe, he was the first person to make it. I have not even made it yet.
One of my favorite things to do is to call my parents on Sunday and discuss what they cooked over the weekend. And in turn I tell them what I whipped up for a dinner party. It’s nice to have this language to share with your parents. I love hearing about my dad’s pesto sauce he made or the fresh grouper he stuffed. But most of all I love the shared connection and the talks that that are squished before, between and after we talk about our dinner.
Here’s a recipe of my father’s I think is super tasty. It’s not one of his most exotic, but it is a winner.
- Grouper fillets
- Fresh breadcrumbs
Cut skinless grouper fillets into serving size pieces, salt and pepper.
Prepare fresh breadcrumbs and coat the grouper fillets.
Place on a dish and let sit in the refrigerator and hour before cooking.
Pre-heat oven to 400.
Remove fillets from refrigerator and sauté for 4 minutes on each side in butter.
Place sautéed fillets in a baking dish that is coated with a mix of olive oil and a generous amount of butter.
Squeeze the juice of 2 whole lemons over the fish.
Cover the fish with minced garlic.
Place the fish in the oven for 20 minutes.
While the fish is baking finely chop Rosemary and Thyme.
After 20 minutes sprinkle the fish with the herb mix and return to the oven for 5 more minutes. Then you are done. Serve with Pinot Grigio.