If you had trouble erasing this image from your mind courtesy Tony Bourdain‘s visit to our magical city last year, you’re not alone. But we can count on Andrew Zimmern to replace it tonight as Bizarre Foods America’s Miami episode premieres on the Travel Channel at 9|8c featuring among other oddities, a wreckfish butchered and skilleted with finesse by our very own chef de cuisine Bradley Herron. We’re all revved up to tune in and reached the two-time James Beard Award-winning host (chef, food writer, teacher, husband and father) on Friday as he took a break from shooting to answer a few prefatory questions to make sure you are, too.
The Genuine Kitchen: What makes Miami a relevant food city?
Andrew Zimmern: Well I mean two things really. The first is the growth and maturity of the medium to fine dining community. A ton more quality restaurants have opened that are doing great food in slightly more casual and slightly more fussy situations — and everything in between. You have what I call the New York City commitheus – the Scott Conants, the Daniel Bouluds… Andrew Carmellini – all these folks showing up in Miami. What it does is raises the bar for everyone. And they wouldn’t be there if there wasn’t a market for dining. And then you have the fact that Miami is the unofficial capital of South America. There is an amazing amount of fantastic ethnic eats in that town. From Columbian to Brazilian… Places we visited like Fritanga Montelimar and Palacios de los Jugos. It’s this depth and maturity that makes Miami consistently one of the 10 to 12 best food scenes in America.
TGK: What impressed you about chef Bradley?
AZ: Maturity in a cooking sense from a young person, for one. Usually chefs in Brad’s place in their careers… They’ve all got too many ingredients on the plate and don’t have enough techniques in their pick bag nor enough knowledge of the ingredients themselves. What you have in Bradley, and the reason why I voted for him for Eater Young Guns, is that he’s young, has good taste buds and the skills needed to be successfully curious.
TGK: Among the fish delivered to us that afternoon by fisherman George Figueroa was a Yellow Jack, and as I recall you went straight for the collar! What did you make and why?
AZ: It was a classic fish sauce caramel on the pastry station’s burner with some fish sauce, sugar and lime… Here goes a shameless plug but the recipe for that will be in my Food and Wine Kitchen Adventures column at the end of August!
TGK: So let’s say you’re hosting Michael and Brad for dinner at your house in up north. What local ingredients or specialties are you cooking?
AZ: Well it depends on when I’m cooking…
TGK: Right now!
AZ: There’s no better time of year than to be eating in Minnesota than right now, maybe other than September. We’re in the heartland… So you go to a farm in rural Minnesota and you’re plucking tomatoes and fresh corn. Now we don’t have a lot of seed savers but the food is just extraordinary. You know most land locked states are faced with lakes that have mud bottoms, tannic with leaves that go right up the food chain. Our lakes are spring fed with sand bottoms. Everyone forgets about the amazing seafood this produces, from amazing walleye and crawfish to frogs catfish… So for the menu I’d do a sideboard filled with farmhouse veggie dishes — some sautéed sweet corn and roasted tomato salad. We have insane cauliflower and cabbage coming out of ground right now, too. I’d go Asian like I usually do and steam a walleye from the lake at our summer house cabin. Maybe a spicy black bean sauce or a ginger and scallion bath. And for dessert I’d have ’cause I suck at it, Hedy would be there so my wife could bake one of her cherry berry pies…. One of the benefits of being married to a Midwestern girl is they know how to bake!!
Zimmern’s sixth season explores in 8 one-hour episodes the bizarre foods and cultures in our own backyard. It premiered Monday, July 9 with his 100th episode of the Bizarre Food series. Follow him on Twitter @andrewzimmern and visit the series’ homepage for video of our episode and more. For a look behind-the-scenes at the December 2011 shoot, visit our Flickr.