Oven Baked Tautog
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver

Tautog are somewhat of a mystery fish along the NC coast, except for the dedicated winter fishermen. Those who have tasted the excellent meat will usually learn when, where, and how to catch tautog on their own. Here is a simple recipe to prepare them in a tasty and healthy manner when it's too cold to stand around a grill.

2-4 fresh tautog fillets (2 pounds)
1 stick butter
3/4 cup cracker crumbs (to reduce salt intake you may crush non-salted or low-salt saltines)
1-1/2 tablespoons Cavender's All Purpose Greek Seasoning
1 teaspoon black pepper
non-stick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350.
Melt the butter.
Mix the cracker crumbs, Cavender's, and pepper together.
Use your favorite non-stick spray to coat a pan large enough to hold the fillets. (The new air-bake pans are great here as any extra butter doesn't quickly run off and burn.)
Place the fillets in the pan and brush lightly with the butter.
Cover with aluminum foil and cook for about 15 minutes or until the fillets are just before flaking easily. (This will vary with the thickness of the fillets.)
Baste the fillets lightly with butter and sprinkle the cracker crumb mixture evenly along the fillets.
Cook uncovered for approximately another 10 minutes or until the meat flakes easily and there is no opaque meat in the middle of the fillets.

The real secret here is to get the fillets cooked all the way through without overcooking them. (There may be a slight crusting along the edges before the fillets are done. This is the butter cooking and will not adversely affect the taste.)

Sauteed vegetables, a baked sweet potato and some warm hearty bread complete the meal.


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