My friend Mark’s favorite restaurant in Islamorada is Chef Michael’s. The fresh fish and attentive service make him go back again and again. One of these days, I will get there. Until then, I have a hogfish recipe from Chef Michael Ledwith, the namesake and owner of Chef Michael’s to tide us over. And it is a good one.
After honing his culinary skills in New York and fine-tuning his fish cooking talents in the Caribbean, his current home is in the middle of the Florida Keys. Chef Michael’s, in Islamorada, is located halfway between Miami and Key West and is open for dinner daily, and brunch on Sunday, leaving you plenty of time to explore the islands during the day.
Chef Michael suggests saltwater fly fishing, sport-fishing or any other kind of water fun, including diving. On one side, visitors can experience the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Bay, and The Everglades. On the other, the Atlantic and the beautiful reef. Paddle boarding, learning how to spearfish, or just sunning, will work up an appetite. At the end of the day find a comfy seat at one of many waterfront spots and enjoy a sunset. As for beachside locales in the middle Keys, some of my favorites include Lorelei and Marker 88.
The food is what keeps people coming back to Chef Michael’s, in particular, the fish. They feature a fresh catch that changes on a daily basis. When in Islamorada, be sure to try something that’s hard to find anywhere else: local hogfish. One of his favorite preparations is the simple Adriatic Hogfish.(If you want to try this at home and cannot get fresh hogfish, try another white flaky fish such as snapper, or whatever is fresh and available where you are. Also, note that fire cider is a spicy apple cider vinegar, so if you don’t have that on hand, feel free to improvise!)
By Chef Michael Ledwith
● 4 six-ounce portions of fresh hogfish
● Salt and pepper, to taste
● 1⁄2 cup fresh cilantro
● 1⁄2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
● 1⁄4 cup fresh basil leaf
● 2 cloves garlic
● 1⁄2 cup good olive oil
● 2 tablespoons “Fire Cider”
● 1 lemon, juiced
● salt and pepper
Make the sauce.
In a food processor, add all of the ingredients for the sauce and puree until smooth.
Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
If the sauce is too thick, slowly add more olive oil.
Serve the sauce at room temperature. The sauce stays well in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Grill the Fish (The fish can be grilled or pan seared.)
Have your grill hot and clean.
Lightly season fish with salt and pepper.
Lightly coat fish with canola oil or spray fish with pan spray.
When fish is done, transfer to serving plate, lightly top the fish with Adriatic sauce.
Served with a lemon wedge, steamed seasoned quinoa and grilled asparagus.
Chef Michael’s is located at 81671 Overseas Highway, in Islamorada (halfway between Mile Markers 81 and 82), and is open for dinner daily and brunch on Sunday.