This grouper, pulled off the North Carolina shores, is simply seared to highlight rather than mask the opaque, flaky and clean-tasting fish. The vegetables at Catch, like these, are often grown and brought in by customers, who Keith calls friends.
Butterfly before Searing
First, Keith butterflies the black grouper, “the king white fish of North Carolina”, opening it up like a book so it cooks evenly. Next, Keith adds a touch of soybean oil, which he prefers to peanut oil because it’s local and cooks at a high temperature. The fish is seared for about a minute then flipped and covered, so it basically steams. After a few minutes more, he hits it with some white wine ("Mad Housewife" brand!), salt and pepper (note how he seasons the fish after it’s cooked, not before) and it’s done.
Keith speaks passionately about local and sustainable seafood, emphasizing how he would never throw a West Coast fish like halibut onto the menu just because customers may recognize the name, when there are plenty of fish in the local sea to choose from. Keith encourages education about such issues amongst customers and the larger Wilmington community.
Raised as an Adventist and a vegetarian until he was 16, Keith was exposed to tons of fresh veggies growing up and non-meat proteins like tofu, which he says was not common for someone in the African American community in the south at that time. Consequently, he’s a huge vegetable man, all about taste, and not really into starches (pasta, rice, potato and the like), which he calls ‘fillers’. Today, he pairs the grouper with purple okra, zucchini, carrots and breakfast radishes, all fresh and local.
In this preparation, the veggies are touched with some South East Asian overtones. Toyomansi, a calamansi (Filipino citrus) - infused soy sauce, and a soy sauce with bonito. He adopted these flavor profiles from his time cooking in Philly.
Veggies are plated first on a bed of raw arugula, then the fish.