By Jill Christoferson
With 2021 coming to an end, many people are more than ready to dip into the new year and see what 2022 will bring. Looking ahead, food is one central theme of many New Year’s traditions; whether it’s eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight or a heaping plate of collard greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread on New Year’s Day.
Another time-honored Florida tradition is finding tranquility while dropping a line in the water. In some cultures, the two go hand in hand as fish are believed to be a lucky food for many reasons. Their scales resemble coins, for prosperity, and many species swim in schools, which invokes the idea of abundance. Fish are also constantly moving forward, representing forward progress in the coming year.
And what better way to ring in the new year than targeting new species and finding new ways to bring people together to enjoy those hard-earned harvests? Though many anglers might turn up their nose at a saltwater catfish or grunt, these, along with many other overlooked species, can be great table fare. And if you’re looking for an easy crowd pleaser, most species, from king mackerel to striped mullet, will please even the most discerning pallet when served on a cracker as part of another popular Florida tradition: smoked fish dip. If you’re looking to harvest your catch but not sure how to cook it, this is a great way to start, especially for some of the stronger-tasting fish or if you’re still working on your filleting skills. Don’t have a smoker? That’s okay too! A quick internet search will produce numerous ways to simulate that tantalizing taste and texture. Below is a basic fish dip recipe that works well for most smoked fish species but there are lots of recipes out there if you’re looking for something to fit your individual taste.
Basic smoked fish dip:
½ cup softened cream cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
8 ounce boneless, skinless, flaked smoked fish
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Mix ingredients together in a food processor or in a bowl by hand until desired consistency is reached. Using a food processor will produce a smoother spreadable texture. For additional variations, you can spice it up with your favorite seasoning or hot sauce or use cooked chopped shrimp for another twist.