Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Signature Dish: A foil-wrapped gem of a fish recipe from Walt'z at John's Pass

Who: Walt Gerbase and Sue Zirneskie of Walt'z Fish Shak at John's Pass in Madeira Beach.

What: Cayman BBQ Fish.

About the recipe: Gerbase was spearfishing with friends in a cove on Grand Cayman Island. At the end of the day, they took the snapper they caught and wrapped it and the other ingredients in foil and cooked the fish over a fire on the beach. Gerbase said the ingredients make their own sweet and savory barbecue sauce.

"When you come home from fishing and diving, you don't want to smell fish in the house. Everything is self-contained in this recipe. We use snapper, grouper, whatever we have," he said.

What's the most popular fish at Walt'z? Hogfish.

And what's your favorite? Red snapper. It's a really white fish with nice character.

What utensil is necessary to cook fish? A good, metal spatula.

How about must-have seasonings? Lemon pepper, Old Bay and whatever else you like.

What's the biggest mistake people make when cooking fish? They overdo it; they overcook and they over-season. "When you think it's almost done, it's probably done. Stick a fork in it and turn the fork; if it flakes, it's done. The edges of the fish turn white."

What do you eat at home? Seafood and lots of pasta, both from Gerbase's roots. The seafood is from growing up in the Keys. The pasta is from his Sicilian heritage.

About the restaurant: Walt'z, 224 Boardwalk Place, John's Pass, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. until the fish is gone. It's also open for lunch on Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. But, Gerbase warns, they operate on "island time," so to avoid disappointment, call before you head down, (727) 395-0732.

A final note: The 53-year-old Gerbase, who had a brain aneurysm a year ago, is recovering so well that he's getting ready to take the spatula back — or at least take back the role of supervising the spatula — from Zirneskie, who has been holding down the fort at the restaurant while she has been helping him regain the mobility he temporarily lost.

Patti Ewald, Times staff writer

Signature Dish is published periodically in Taste. If you have a recipe that you would like featured or would like to nominate other home cooks and their dishes, please email the information to [email protected] with a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line. Nominations can also be mailed to Taste, Tampa Bay Times, 490 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

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