Michigan coconut curry with bluegill

Large bowl of coconut curry with bluegill in front of a cutting board shaped like Michigan’s lower peninsula. Photo by A. Rodriguez Cole
This coconut curry recipe is easy to customize with Michigan seafood and produce. Photo: A. Rodríguez Cole

By Tyler Augst, Michigan Sea Grant Government & Community Vitality Educator

This delicious Michigan coconut curry with bluegill is a celebration of Michigan’s fresh summer produce and the generosity of Michigan anglers. Many Michiganders are familiar with the annual summer tradition of gift zucchinis, squash, and tomatoes. This is when gardeners are overwhelmed by all the produce ripening at once in their back yard and share the bounty with family, friends, and neighbors. Some gardeners even share their harvest with their local food pantry. If you are interested in sharing your harvest with a local food pantry, Michigan State University Extension has an article of tips for getting started.

The same philanthropic phenomenon happens with anglers in Michigan. Some successful anglers will catch more fish in a season then they can use themselves. They then give their catch away to family, friends, or maybe to serve as the main dish as part of a fish fry or fish boil.  According to Michigan Sea Grant Educator Dr. Daniel O’Keefe, the type of fish shared can vary around the state: “In West Michigan, it is often Great Lakes salmon and trout. Inland lakes throughout the state produce a lot of bluegill, perch, and pike.” The bluegill for this curry were caught on an inland lake in Southwest Michigan and gifted to several folks by an avid angler. One of the recipients took their filets and some fresh summer produce and created a dish inspired by a bounty of fish, fresh vegetables, and a love of curries.

Photo by A. Rodríguez Cole. Leftover coconut curry with bluegill in a glass jar on top of cutting board shaped like Michigan’s lower peninsula.
A jar of bluegill curry can be a great gift for family, friends, and neighbors. Photo: A. Rodríguez Cole)

This curry recipe is flexible and easy to customize. Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly salt the bluegill filets and bake in the oven on a lightly oiled cooking sheet for five minutes on each side. Remove from oven and let cool. Dice the tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, and white onion. In a large pot, combine the vegetables, coconut milk, chicken broth, and water and bring to a simmer. Add curry powder, salt, bay leaf, and cayenne to taste and continue to simmer until the vegetables are cooked. [Note: As Alicea Rodríguez Cole, the recipe’s creator, put it, they used “all the needed-to-be-eaten farm stand produce from my counter and my fridge.” Feel free to substitute for your favorite vegetable or whatever you have in the kitchen that needs to be used up!]

When the bluegill is cooled enough to handle, shred the meat. Remember to check for bones as you go. Turn off the simmering vegetables and add the shredded fish. Serve over a bowl of rice or greens and add sriracha and lime to taste. This recipe can easily be modified to be vegan by replacing the bluegill filets with more vegetables and the chicken broth with vegetable stock.

The next time you are out on the water, consider sharing some of your own freshwater feast (and this recipe) with someone. Who knows — maybe some mystery gift squash will show up at your door in return!

Alicea Rodríguez Cole, the recipe’s creator, lives in Southwest Michigan where she is training to become an elementary teacher and enjoying all the great food, friends, and fun of their hometown. Alicea recommends making enough to have leftovers because it tastes even better the next day.

Michigan coconut curry with bluegill

Recipe by Alicea Rodríguez Cole

Note: this recipe leaves plenty of room for creativity and customization. Feel free to swap out vegetables for whatever’s in your garden (or on your front porch), and add seasonings to taste. To make the curry vegan, use vegetable stock instead of chicken broth and replace the bluegill with more vegetables.

Ingredients

Bluegill filets

Tomato

Yellow squash

Zucchini

White onion

1 can coconut milk

16 oz chicken broth

8 oz water

Bay leaf

Curry powder

Salt

Cayenne

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Lightly salt the bluegill filets and bake in the oven on a lightly oiled cooking sheet for five minutes on each side. Remove from oven and let cool.
  3. Dice the tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, and white onion (or whatever veggies you need to use up). In a large pot, combine the vegetables, coconut milk, chicken broth, and water and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add curry powder, salt, bay leaf, and cayenne to taste and continue to simmer until the vegetables are cooked.
  5. When the bluegill is cooled enough to handle, shred the meat. Remember to check for bones as you go.
  6. Turn off the simmering vegetables and add the shredded fish.
  7. Serve over a bowl of rice or greens and add sriracha and lime to taste.

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