Cooking Red Drum with Chef Jeremiah Bacon
With so many monikers, it’s hard to know which fish is the red drum and which fish is the channel bass. Here’s a hint: they’re the same. Red drum goes by the names red fish, channel bass, and spot tail bass, and they’re all found along the South Carolina coast and at Kiawah River. Red drum stick to the wetlands during their first four years of life, growing in size before venturing out to deeper waters. This species is known most commonly as red drum for the beating sound they create during mating season by rubbing their muscles against their air bladder.
Red drum are copper bronze in color and fade to white underneath with a distinctive spot on the tail. They have large teeth used for crushing oysters and other crustaceans, and while they can no longer be sold commercially in the state, they are a popular game fish in South Carolina. One of the best places to catch this fish is off the Kiawah River community docks. On average, these fish are caught between six and eight pounds, but the largest red drum ever caught was off Hatteras Island and weighed 94 pounds.
Jeremiah Bacon is the chef at downtown Charleston’s Macintosh, which offers an array of cooking that is rooted in the South on a menu that changes daily. He spent his childhood growing up on Johns Island and says this fish is his favorite to catch and cook.
“It’s the perfect fish to try at home,” he says. “Because it’s relatively easy to create that crisp skin everyone loves so much.”
Here are his tips for preparing this Lowcountry favorite:
I suggest running the edge of a knife back and forth against the grain of the skin, as if squeegeeing the moisture from it. Having an extra dry skin allows it to crisp during cooking. I pair my red drum with sauce gribiche in the summertime because it contrasts well as a chilled sauce with the hot fish. But instead of emulsifying all the ingredients like in the classic French version of the sauce, I toss all the ingredients in oil then place them in a cooler to chill.
Grilled Red Drum with Sauce Gribiche
Jeremiah Bacon, Macintosh
For the sauce gribiche:
• 2 teaspoons chopped capers, drained and rinsed
• ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 hard-boiled eggs, both yolks and whites finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
• 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
PLACE ALL the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Cooking Tip: Add the vinegar to the Sauce Gribiche just before serving. The acid in the vinegar will turn the fresh parsley brown if left together for too long.
For the red drum:
• 4 filets (6-ounce each) red drum
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
PREHEAT A CLEAN grill to medium-high.
Cross hatch the skin of the fish fillets. Brush both sides of the fish with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place the fish on the grill. Close the lid and cook, turning once, until medium, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.
To serve, place the fish on the plate and top with a generous spoonful of the Sauce Gribiche.
Visitors and residents of Kiawah River will appreciate the endless opportunities to fish on the property. While before they could catch their own red drum at the community docks, now they can take their prize straight from the water to Jeremiah Bacon’s kitchen for their own summertime sea islands celebration.
Photos courtesy of Peter Frank Edwards, Ethan Levine and Phase 3 Marketing & Comm.