July 2016
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Drum-ing Up Some Delicious Meals

Don’t miss a beat with these black drum recipes.

This past spring, my son Cason went on his first boys’ road trip with his daddy Jason and his great-grandfather Pawpaw Willie. The three of them traveled to visit some friends who are crab fishermen in Cedar Key, Florida. The McGhee family harvested stone crab until the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Now they catch blue crab and sell their wild-caught crustaceans in markets regionally.

  Jason and Cason Kirk caught this black drum while fishing in Cedar Key, Florida.

While the Kirks were in Cedar Key, Cason had the opportunity to see firsthand how cages are used to trap and harvest blue crabs. They also fished in the bay and channels and caught a few black drums. These fish are usually found in the Gulf waters of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas; however, they are also in freshwater or brackish waters such as bays, lagoons and river mouths. That means finding a good location for black drum fishing doesn’t always require deep-sea fishing gear or an ocean-worthy fishing boat. 

Black drum can be fished year-round, but knowing their seasonal patterns can be helpful in making plans for a black drum fishing trip. In the spring, fall and winter, the fish can be found in shallow waters. As the water warms closer to summer, black drum will sometimes stay in the channels leading to the Gulf. As temperatures rise during the summer, black drum seek deeper, cooler water and can usually be found around bridge or pier posts in the Gulf. 

The seasons also dictate the typical size of the fish caught. Smaller black drums, also called puppy drums, are 10 pounds or less. Puppy drums are considered better eating than the larger ones. Black drum this size are mostly caught in the fall and winter. 

No matter what season you fish or your location, keep in mind that black drum fish are similar to catfish because they usually stay at the bottom of the water. Like catfish, they also have whiskers. The black drum’s chin whiskers are used to help them find food as they swim along looking for their next meal of blue crab, shrimp, clams or mussels. Black drum can also be found in some of the same locations as catfish. Cason’s Pawpaw Willie caught a large sail catfish in the same channel where they caught the black drum. 

Some people will always prefer the black drum’s popular cousin, the red drum or redfish, but over time the black has gained popularity mostly because of recipes using Cajun or Creole seasoning. When it comes to cooking black drum for yourself, you can keep it simple or go sophisticated, and finding your favorite recipe may take as much patience as finding your favorite fishing spot. Whether you are on a road trip with your family or home alone, experimentation with seasoning and methods can pay off at your next meal. 

For tips on black drum fishing, visit: www.outdooralabama.com/saltwater-fishing-tips.

 

EASY BLACK DRUM ON THE GRILL

4 large black drum fillets (about 1 pound), rinsed and patted dry
1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided plus a little more for sprinkling after grilling
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
½ cup olive oil, divided
1-2 lemons, cut into wedges

Place fillets on a wire baking rack in a dish or on a baking sheet to catch any drips.

Season fish with half the salt and pepper. Drizzle half the olive oil over the fish. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, make sure oil is all over the top of each fish. Flip fish over on the rack and repeat with remaining salt, pepper and oil. Allow the fish to marinate while you heat the grill. 

With your grill at a low temperature, place the fish on the grill and let it cook with the lid closed for 7-10 minutes, depending on the thickness. Do not turn the fish, but check it at 7 minutes. The fish should be white and flaky. Use a metal spatula to remove it from the grill. Sprinkle with the additional salt and lemon juice. Serve with lemon slices.

 

BLACK DRUM IN CAST IRON

4 large black drum fillets (about 1 pound), rinsed and patted dry
Olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
Lemons, cut into wedges, divided
Seasoning such as Chef Paul’s Seafood Magic or Creole seasoning

Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium-high. In skillet, put olive oil and butter. Coat fish with lemon juice and seasonings. Add fish fillets to skillet and cook 5 minutes; then flip and cook 5 more minutes. Cook 2-5 minutes longer depending on the thickness of the fish. Squeeze more lemon juice on fish if desired.

 

PAN SEARED BLACK DRUM WITH TOMATO SAUCE

4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ red onion, minced, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Thyme, to taste
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
2 black drum fillets, rinsed and patted dry

In a small pot, heat half the olive oil on medium. Add onion, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until onions soften. Stir in tomatoes, vinegar, thyme and sugar; season again with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 18-20 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Set aside as you cook the fish.

Season both sides of fish fillets with salt and pepper. In a medium pan, heat remaining olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add fillets and cook 2-4 minutes on each side, or until crisp and golden. Drain cooked fish on a plate lined with paper towels. Top fillets with tomato sauce and serve.

 

CAJUN BLACK DRUM

3 pounds black drum fillets, rinsed and patted dry
About 4 Tablespoons garlic, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, divided
2 Tablespoons Cajun seasoning
2 Tablespoons onions, minced
2 Tablespoons green peppers, minced
2 Tablespoons parsley, minced
12 ounces beer
Aluminum foil (to fit grill), oiled

Sprinkle both sides of fillets with garlic and pepper, pressing them into the fillets. In small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and add 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, Cajun seasoning, garlic, onion, green pepper and parsley. Sauté until onion is translucent and sauce darkens and thickens slightly. Add remaining Worcestershire sauce. Simmer 15 minutes on medium-high heat. Place aluminum foil with sides turned up over grill grates. Place fillets on foil. Cook over low-medium heat for 20 minutes, raising lid only to baste generously with the sauce. It is done when the thickest part of fillet flakes easily.

 

PAN-FRIED BLACK DRUM

4 black drum fillets, rinsed and patted dry
Salt, pepper and paprika, to taste
Flour
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Season both sides of fish with salt, pepper and paprika. Roll in flour. In skillet on medium to medium high heat, add olive oil. Add fillets and pan-fry for 5 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels before serving.

 

Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.