Fresh Catch Fish Batter

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It’s always a good idea to cook with what’s in season and right now yellow perch from Muskegon Lake is what is fresh at my house. We have had an incredible ice fishing season here in west Michigan so perch has been on the menu quite frequently. Way back I did a Reel n Smoke recipe and wet battered some fish. But this time we are going to simplify things a do a dry batter. The result will be easier to work with and have a nice light crunch to it.

This recipe isn’t something I sought out to create but was born out of necessity. Earlier this winter my mother in law was out to help us out with a sick kid. I promised a perch fry one night that week. I hit the ice after work and caught a bunch of perch, everything was going to plan. Until I went to go get the store bought fish breading I use a lot. We were out and after a quick trip to the grocery store I found that they were out too. I grabbed a few quick ingredients and knew the Reel n Smoke seasoning would pull through for me. Ever since then the questions keep coming about what those perch are battered in.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup Drakes or flour

3/4 cup Cornmeal

2 tablespoons Reel 'n Smoke All-Purpose Seasoning

1/2 teaspoon Garlic Salt

1 teaspoon Paprika

Step 1

Get out there and catch yourself some fish. This is clearly the most fun part of the whole deal. However if you can’t make it out pick up some perch fillets at the store. They are a little pricey but well worth it. Great tasting fish begins with great prep from the lake to the table. One of the most important things is to keep them cold at all times to ensure the best tasting and firmest fillets. If you caught them ice fishing the cold water they came from is already really helping your cause. But once you get home don’t wait around to get them cleaned. Rinse the boneless fillets in cold water 3 times and get them in the fridge or freezer.

Step 2

While your fillets are keeping cold it’s time to mix the batter up. You can use simple flour, but I really prefer to use Drakes Batter Mix because it adds to the flavor and gives it a really nice color. It also is another Michigan based company. A flour base on its own doesn't provide enough crunch for me so that is where the cornmeal comes in. The majority of the rest of the flavor comes from the Reel n Smoke All Purpose Seasoning. It has the perfect blend of spices and also adds an appealing look the finished product. The paprika and garlic salt are small players, but the finish it up well.

Step 3

Add a few fillets at a time to the breading. While you can be fast and mix it all up in a plastic bag. I feel like I have a more consistent batter if do a few at a time by hand. It also keeps the rest of batter fresh for the remaining fish. Otherwise it may start absorbing some water causing it to clump up and not adhere to the fish as well.

Step 4

Get them in the hot oil! I prefer to use peanut oil and deep fry at a temp of 374 (that is as hot as my deep fryer goes). Don’t overload your oil because it will cool the temp down just enough to keep your fish from getting crispy (10-12 fillets in my deep fryer). That nice little crunch is so critical to a good fish dinner. Take each batch off and dump into a bowl lined with paper towel to absorb any excess grease. The fish itself is cooked and safe to eat when it floats but you will want to fry longer to get them crispy. For perch fillets that is 3 to 4 minutes per batch in my deep fryer.

Step 5

Sample (it’s best to try more than 1 piece) and repeat the frying process. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have frequent samples and definitely let everyone else get in on the fun too. But it is the only real way to know if you are cooking long enough or if maybe your oil is dropping in temp. If you find you are having struggles be sure to decrease the amount of fish you add with each batch or let the oil heat up again for a couple minutes. Also using an extension cord will drop your temp too so it’s best to avoid them or use a very short one.

 

BEER PAIRING

We are going to deviate from a beer pairing in this one. I'm a big fan of keeping it simple with lagers when it comes to fish but in this one we are going to go with one best enjoyed before or after. In fact it's not a beer at all, we are going to get into a local cider. Vander Mill ciders is about 10 minutes from our house and is located in Spring Lake, Michigan. Totally Roasted is a unique and flavorful cider, it also happens to be Amanda and I's favorite cider. Cinnamon, pecans, and vanilla show through strong in this cider. You wouldn't know it has a 6.8% ABV either as it goes down incredibly smooth. You shouldn't have to look too hard to find this cider either, I highly recommend you grab a 4 pack of the 16 ounce cans next time you get a chance.

Open Face BBQ Meatball Sliders

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It's time for a party, and that means it's appetizer time. Plenty of family gatherings, football games, and Christmas dinners to bust out this next recipe at. The best part is you can get away with minimal effort on this one. Time is precious with so much going on and you won't be disappointed if you take the short cut. But to really bring the fire you'll have to get your hands dirty and do a bit more work.

This isn't a ton of work but you will need to allow some time (4 hours) since we are going to incorporate a slow cooker (and a skillet). You will need 2 bottles of Reel n Smoke BBQ sauce for this recipe for it to taste the best. I recommend one bottle of Bold n Sassy and one bottle of Original. Also, I'm working with a party size recipe here, but for a smaller group cut all the ingredients in half and prepare to be full. These may come in a small package but they are filling. Bring the creativity with this one. The topping possibilities are endless, did someone say slider topping bar? Just an idea but that would be a ton of fun!

 

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs ground beef or 1 bag of pre-packaged frozen meatballs (if you are feeling weak)

1 cup bread crumbs

Reel 'n Smoke All-Purpose Seasoning

2 eggs

Sandwich sliced pickles (McClure's are best, but will require some work to slice them thin)

Sliced cheese of your choosing

Slider buns

Tooth picks

Olive oil

 

Step 1

Time to get those hands dirty. Combine meat, breadcrumbs, eggs, and hit them with some Reel n Smoke seasoning. Mix it all together in a large bowl and form the meatball. Since we are going to be putting them on sliders I'm going to make them flatter rather than round. Make them just a little smaller than the slider bun.

Step 2

Add a dash of olive oil to a skillet and turn the heat to medium high. We are going to brown the meatballs for a couple reasons. This is going to give it a little texture and it's also going to drain some of that burger fat off so it doesn't end up in the BBQ sauce.

Step 3

Set the crock pot to low for 4 hours and add the meatballs. Pour 2 bottles of Reel n Smoke BBQ sauce over the meatballs and cover the crock pot. Any excess fat from the hamburger will float to the top and can easily be ladled off during the cooking process.

Step 4

Here is where we finally put it all together. You can either serve these closed or open face (bun on just the bottom or like a traditional slider). Today we are rocking them open faced to capture more of that bold Reel n Smoke BBQ sauce flavor. Place a meatball on the bottom bun, put a slice of cheese on top, place a sandwich sliced McClure pickle on top of that and skewer them with a toothpick (you'll be amazed at how well the pickle works as a "bun"). Plate, serve, and watch them disappear.

BEER PAIRING

Going back to Beer City USA for this one. It's hard to pass up so many great breweries close to home. Perrin Brewing Company's flagship beer, Perrin Black, works great with this recipe. Don't let this black ales color throw you off, it is not a heavy beer. It has enough flavor to stand up to the sliders boldness. It's got a little sweetness, a little bitterness at the end, but finishes clean and crisp. You won't be disappointed in this combo!

Crunchy Cowboy Burgers

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Grilling season just wouldn't be complete without a burger recipe. This is America and we do love burgers after all. What we are going to do here isn't going to be anything revolutionary, but it does have a cheesy twist you may not have seen before.

We are going to change the texture of the cheese in this recipe. So instead of gooey cheese running down the burger we are going to use the oven to make the cheese crunchy, which adds some texture and also changes the flavor profile a bit. You might want to make a couple extra pieces of frico (what the cheese is called), because they are awesome on their own.

INGREDIENTS

Ground Beef

Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Reel 'n Smoke All-Purpose Seasoning

Reel 'n Smoke BBQ & Dippin' Sauce

Hamburger Buns

Lettuce, Onion, Tomatoes, Pickles, Bacon, etc

Step 1

Time to apply the heat. Get the grill heating up and pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare the ground beef patties, absolutely no filler in them. Burgers are meant to be all meat. You can make them anywhere from slider size to jumbo size, that is totally up to you. I typically shoot for fairly thick burgers that weigh close to 1/2 lb.

Step 2

Season the burgers liberally with Reel 'n Smoke All-Purpose Seasoning. One little trick I like to do is to add some seasoning before I mix the meat. That gets the flavor all throughout the meat. Once they are seasoned drop them on the hot grill. I like to cook on medium high heat to get my desired level of char and doneness.

Step 3

Grab a cookie sheet and cover it with parchment paper. We are going to use that cheddar cheese to make the frico. Make little piles of the cheese so they are about the same diameter as the burgers will end up being. Pop them in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, you'll want to see the edges turning brown and starting to look crispy.

Step 4

If you are on your 'A game', you'll have it timed where the burgers and frico are done at the same time. Drop the burger on a bun (you can toast it if you want) and smother it with Reel 'n Smoke BBQ & Dippin' Sauce. The frico will slide right off the parchment paper with a spatula, scoop that up and drop it on top. Top the burgers with whatever else you would like and serve!

BEER PAIRING

The BBQ sauce really gives this burger a bold flavor. So we are going to need a beer that will stand up to that and also really compliment the sweetness.  When I want a beer that is powerful and full of flavor, a scotch ale is my go to.  I picked up one from Arcadia Ales in Battle Creek, MI (they also have a location in Kalamazoo, MI). The Loch Down from Arcadia packs a punch, like most scotch ales, coming in at 8%.  It scotch flavor doesn't over power the beer and the sweetness really shows through. I highly recommend it for any recipe you are going to incorporate Reel 'n Smoke BBQ sauce in!

Sizzlin' Skinless Salmon

Grilled Salmon

When we think of summertime meals on the grill, fish isn't necessarily at the top of the list. However, we're going to share a super easy, delicious, and healthy grilled salmon recipe (besides the butter). 

Working with a skinless salmon while cooking provides a couple advantages. One of the biggest advantages is the ability to trim the brown fat that is in between the skin and the meat from the fish. The brown fat is where most of the contaminants within Great Lakes fish are found, so it is much better cutting it off at the start of cooking.  It also allows for excess fat to drip off of the fish.

INGREDIENTS

Salmon Fillets (skinless)

Olive oil

Lemon Juice

Reel n Smoke All-Purpose Seasoning

Butter (Optional)

Lemon Pepper

Old Bay Seasoning

Step One

It's time to prep our fish. When we freeze Lake Michigan salmon we always leave the skin on, just in case we decide it's going in the smoker vs going on the grill. Store bought fish often has the skin on when purchased too. So grab a fillet knife and fillet the skin off the salmon (you'll also want to trim the brown fat off the fish at this point). Ideally we will have serving size chunks of the fillet about 3 to 4 inch long.

Step Two

Hit the salmon with some lemon juice. Freshly squeezed is always preferred, but the stuff in the bottle will work just fine too. Make sure you get both sides of the fillet coated.

Step Three

Take a basting brush and brush all sides of each fillet liberally with olive oil. This is absolutely critical to keeping the fish from sticking to the grill grates. While you are at it, be sure to brush the grill grates with olive oil before they get too hot. If the grill is already hot, be careful brushing on the olive oil. It will go up in flames quickly.

* The cleaner the grill grates are before attempting this recipe the better the results will be.

Step Four

It's time to sprinkle Reel 'n Smoke All-Purpose seasoning on our salmon. Get it nicely seasoned on all sides so it looks nice and peppery.  At this point, you can add a classic seafood seasoning on top of the Reel 'n Smoke base. Either Old Bay or Lemon Pepper compliment this dish great, but is not needed.

Step Five

We are ready to start grilling. Add the salmon fillets to the grill at medium high heat.  You can crank it up if you want the outside a little crispy.  We like to put a good sized chunk of butter on top of the fillet when it's first added to the grill. As the butter melts, it will spread  over the top of the fish. Grill 6 minutes on each side, or until the fish is flaky (extremely large salmon might take a minute, or two longer). You'll want to use a large spatula to flip the salmon without having it flake apart on you. Once the fish is done; plate, serve, and enjoy!   Remember to be watchful for small pin bones that may still be in the fillet.

BEER PAIRING

For this recipe's Michigan beer pairing we are going with bonfire brown from Saugatuck Brewing in Saugatuck.  We wanted a flavorful beer, that wasn't too heavy, and had some sweetness to it. A classic brown ale is just right for that! A little bit of sweetness typically a good thing when it comes to salmon and the beer was the perfect place to add it. The other thing we really liked about this brown ale is it has a taste of smokiness at the very end.  And we all know that smoke and salmon are a perfect match.

Bonfire Hobo Dinners

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Simple, primitive, and downright delicious describe this next recipe. Here at Reel n Smoke we love to be outside, combine that with summertime in Michigan and camping is the first thing that comes to mind. No good camping trip is complete without a bonfire, so that's what we are going to cook with in this one. No set temperatures, times, or limits on creativity. You can make do with what you have or even pre-package these and keep them in a cooler until they are ready to be used. You'll probably be making these for a number of people so adjust the amounts of ingredients accordingly.

INGREDIENTS

Meat (hamburger in this case)

Potatoes  (the smaller the variety the better)

Onion

Carrots

Butter

Green Pepper

Reel 'n Smoke All-Purpose Seasoning

Reel 'n Smoke BBQ & Dippin' Sauce, Hot sauce, or Worchester sauce (optional)

Step 1

Get a fire going! Let it burn for a while and get some coals going. You don't have to cook these right in the fire, they can be on an elevated grate or in a grill, but today I'm cooking them on the coals of an open fire. Just don't put them directly in the flames or you might have some burning problems.

Step 2

If you haven't already packaged your hobo dinners now is the time to start combining the ingredients. You'll want to use a double layer of tinfoil to wrap these so no juices escape. Since we are working with burger in this version you'll want to shape that into patties or meatballs and give them a healthy dose of Reel 'n Smoke seasoning. Add the burger to the tinfoil and if you have some cooking spray on hand you can coat the tin foil with that.

Step 3

It's time to prepare the vegetables. Starting with the carrots, slice them into 1/4 inch sections. Next take green pepper and onion and slice them as well.  Finally we have our potatoes, you can use any kind but since I prefer less cutting I use small medley potatoes. Cut the potatoes into third's, or half's. Add the vegetables to the tin foil packet on top of the meat and apply a liberal amount of Reel 'n Smoke seasoning.

Step 4

Add a couple chunks of butter on top of the whole package for some more flavor. You can also get creative and add something else for more moisture/flavor here (Reel 'n Smoke BBQ sauce, hot sauce, or worchester sauce work well) . One thing I'll typically have available when camping is beer, so I'm going to add a bit of that in the foil package here too.

Step 5

Clear a spot in the fire where the dinners can be added onto a hot bed of coals but not directly in the fire and wait about a half hour. Times will vary here depending on the heat of the fire, outside temperature, and wind so you will have to use a little of your own judgment. The greater the contents in each package the greater the cooking time will be. Be careful if you start to smell something burning.  If that begins to happen, get them out of the fire.

Step 6

Removing them from the fire is best done with a pair of tongs, but if you are roughing it a couple sticks will work just fine. Open them up and let them cool for a couple minutes because they are going to be hot!

 

BEER PAIRING

Now that we've got our hobo dinners done, it's time to crack a cold one open. We are going with one of Michigan's most refreshing and easiest to find craft beers for this one. Founders All Day IPA is great year round, but it's crispness really shines in the summer months. You can definitely tell the hops are there, but it isn't overpowering and is a great choice with many foods. The bonus is that since it's a session ale with a lower ABV of 4.7 you can have a few of them around the campfire and still get going the next morning.