Ocean City Today

Walker prepares po-boy sandwich with fried tilapia

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Jul 27, 2017

(July 28, 2017) As time progresses my thoughts turn inward and reflection simmers within.

Family has an unmistakable influence that permeates purpose. Each day our lives are sweetened by love ones; never take these blessings for granted.

As I take a chance and peer into the window of ancestry, I allow myself to step back and remember some of these precious moments.

The clock of progression does not always tick to the same beat. Time to be with myself leads me to my dock where it is apparent the weather has demonstrated dominance. A fishing pole in hand is a sign serenity is on the horizon. A lone seagull sits near me. It seems we have much in common, I cannot believe my grandmother and father are no longer with us.

I must confess I really do not know much about fishing, but my attempts are sincere for sure. My dangling feet can almost touch this mysterious world beneath me; the thought of catching fresh fish stimulates my hungry appetite.

Sitting on the dock gives one a whole new perspective on Mother Nature. The incredible calmness enhances the beauty of my surroundings. A little bubble here and there tickles my fancy for the sea; hopefully I will snag a good one. Nanny and dad loved fried fish, I miss Nanny’s cooking and dad’s charm. Change is inevitable, but how we accept it is the key.

There is a difference between peacefulness and loneliness; I am quite content befriending the wonders of the sea with my feathered friend. As I wait for that fateful tug, I recall Nanny’s three secrets for fish frying.

First, add a little bacon drippings to your frying oil, this step gives your oil more depth of flavor. Secondly, think of the flour as glue for the frying process. Dipping the fish in flour allows the egg wash to adhere better, then proceed with adding the panko and cornmeal crust. Finally, place the cooked fish on cooling racks as opposed to resting them on soggy paper towels, this simple steps ensures a crunchy exterior.

Details determine the degrees of excellence; Nanny preferred tartar sauce whereas dad opted for cocktail sauce. As I wait with utter patience and try to imagine the catch I am about to reel in, I try to figure out how I can put a spin on a fried fish sandwich. Keeping with tradition but elevating it to new heights is my culinary point of view. A po-boy sandwich that showcases fried fish sounds intriguing.

For those who are not familiar with po-boys history, a brief explanation follows. According to The History of Po-Boy, Bennie and Clovis Martin left their Raceland, Louisiana, home for New Orleans. Both worked as conductors until they opened Martin Brothers Coffee Stand and Restaurant in the French Market in 1922.

Following heated contract negotiations, the streetcar motormen and conductors declared a strike on July 1, 1929. Transit strikes throughout the nation provoked enormous emotional displays of public support and the 1929 strike ranks among the nations most violent.

A highly sympathetic public participated in great numbers by avoiding the transit system which remained shut down for two weeks. The Martin brothers promised free food to any members of the Division 194.

In order to fulfill their promise, the Martins provided large sandwiches to the strikers. The History of the Po-Boy quotes Bennie Martin as saying, “We fed those strikers free of charge until the strike ended. Whenever we saw one of them coming in, one of us would say, ‘Here comes another poor boy.”’

As I continue my streak of persistence for fresh fish, I review what a po-boy is. Po-boy is a sandwich that consists of a crispy loaf of bread, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, remoulade or Creole mayonnaise usually paired with meat, fried seafood, sausage, or whatever you want the main component of your sandwich to be.

Tilapia will be the star of my po-boy; frozen tilapia is very reasonably priced and its white meat fries up beautifully. My grandmother and father adored fried tomatoes; that will be another fried element and transform the idea of traditional raw tomatoes. Arugula will replace the crisp lettuce, its bitterness will stand up to the fried food.

The fried fish and fried tomatoes need acid; a smoked white fish vinaigrette with capers will not only add flavor but tie the ingredients together. This po-boy sounds absolutely delicious and I can‘t wait to dig in.

Well it looks like this is not my lucky day and I am going to have to make a trip to the seafood market. Influence is emulsified in the tiniest detail, my grandmother and father will always be a part of me and that makes me happy.

If you love fried fish and fried tomatoes, this po-boy is for you. Enjoy!


Fried Tilapia Po-Boy with Smoked White Fish Vinaigrette

Smoked White Fish Vinaigrette

¾ cup good quality olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 shallots, chopped

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar

4 ounces smoked white fish

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons capers

2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped

2 teaspoons small capers, rinsed

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. In a small pan, sauté garlic and onion in 2 teaspoons olive oil until soft.

2. Remove any bones in the smoked fish.

3. In a food processor, puree olive oil, vinegar, fish, garlic, shallots, mustard and capers until smooth. Scrape into a bowl and add chives, salt and pepper. The vinaigrette will have a thick consistency, almost like a mayonnaise. Set aside.

Fried Tilapia

canola oil for frying

4 frozen tilapia filets, thawed

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs and 2 teaspoons water, whisked

1 cup plain panko bread crumbs, ½ cup corn meal mixed

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a large sauté pan to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, combine panko and cornmeal.

3. Set up for frying follows: a plate with the flour, a shallow bowl for the egg/water mixture and another plate for the panko/cornmeal mixture.

4. Dip fish in flour and shake off excess flour, then dip egg mixture and allow excess to drip off. Dip in panko mixture and lightly press so more panko mixture adheres to the fish.

5. Carefully lower breaded fish into the hot oil and fry until both sides are crispy, only turning the fish one time.

6. Place fried fish on cooling rack and salt and pepper to taste.

Fried Tomatoes

canola oil for frying

8 (½-inch) slices of tomatoes

½ cup all purpose flour

2 eggs and two teaspoons cold water, whisked

1 cup plain panko bread crumbs and ½ cup cornmeal

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Follow instructions for tilapia. Use a clean sauté pan for frying.


4 sub rolls, toasted

2 cups arugula

4 fried tilapia filets

8 slices fried tomatoes

smoked white fish vinaigrette


1. Rub inside of sub roll with vinaigrette. Place two slices of fried tomatoes in the sub roll. Add a touch of vinaigrette. Add a layer of arugula and again add a touch of vinaigrette. Top with fried fish. Remember the art of presentation is alive and well.


Secret Ingredient - Purpose. “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

— Pablo Picasso

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