Chef BJ Dennis has grown to understand that real soul food nourished the mind, body, and spirit. It shouldn’t only be good to you, but it should also be good for you. He learned these understandings from his Gullah heritage, and with a proud sense of his roots, Dennis crafts simple ingredients into a culture-filled skillet.
Neutral cooking oil
2 (¾ to 1-pound) whole fish, bone in, scaled, and gutted
Salt and pepper
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped (about 4 cups)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 hot pepper of choice, stemmed and seeded (Dennis uses habanero, jalapeño, or fish peppers)
½ cup bell pepper, sliced about 2 inches in length
½ cup red onion, sliced about 2 inches in length
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
- In a 10-or 12-inch skillet, add enough oil to fill it about ½-inch deep and place over medium-high heat. Season fish with salt and pepper or your preferred fish seasoning. Add fish to pan and fry on each side for about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Make sure to fry fish until skin is crispy, which will be key to the stewing process.
- While the fish is frying, place tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and hot pepper into a blender. Puree the mixture until smooth and set aside.
- Remove fish from skillet to a plate and pour off most of the extra oil from the pan, leaving just enough to coat the bottom.(Make sure to keep all the brown bits in the pan.)Turn heat down to medium and add tomato puree and remaining ingredients. Season with salt and simmer for 5 minutes. Add fish back to pan and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes on each side basting every minute or so during the process. Serve fish with fonio pilaf.
Variation: For a slightly healthier fish stew, you can cook this dish without the frying. Just skip the frying process and add the tomato puree with onions and peppers to the pan and simmer. Add the whole fish to the pan and cover with a lid. Let the fish steam for about 5 minutes. Baste throughout the process.
Recipe ByBJ Dennis