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Monday, Jun 25, 2018
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Kessel: Fish House a neighborhood dining gem

If you make a habit of sampling restaurants across South Shore, pretty soon people start asking you for recommendations.  Consistently at the top of my list, and always when we have out of town guests, is The Fish House in Ruskin.  I ducked in last Friday morning to see what's new. In March, owner Julie Cockerham celebrated The Fish House’s decade of serving up its signature fried fish, smoked mullet and soft crab sandwiches. Let's face it, in the restaurant world where many have come and gone, that's quite an accomplishment. 
If you've never been, it's take-out and outdoor dining only, no air conditioning and no alcohol. But the food and its Cracker charm more than make up for a lack of amenities.   I never need an excuse to gorge myself on delicious crustaceans and The Fish House’s newest menu item, Red Rock Seafood Bisque. This rich, creamy soup is definitely red in color but not too spicy. It’s filled with tender fish, sweet shrimp and lobster, simmered with aromatic veggies and spices. Because of the lack of rain, it's been a bad year for soft shell crabs. They’re normally one of Julie’s big sellers. I love them. You can forget the hassle of picking the meat out; a little cleaning, spice and deep frying in light batter and you to eat the entire crab whole.  While we were talking, Cockerham got a phone call from a local fisherman with six dozen of these babies. She and I were quite excited, to say the least.  Other favorite catches include oysters, clams, scallops and grouper, when available. All dinners include your choice of two sides: french fries, coleslaw, baked beans or grits.  For those who like a little bit of everything or first-time diners, Cockerham suggests the Captain's dinner, which includes fish, shrimp, oysters and clam strips. Yes, please.  She offers chicken fingers or corn dogs for children or those who don’t like fish. Make sure to save room for the restaurant’s out-of-this-world and insanely delicious frozen peanut butter pie. For this week’s recipe I’ve offered a close second that’s pretty darn good. As unique as The Fish House is, so are its hours. It's open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. It’s at 1902 W. Shell Point Road in Ruskin, about a mile and a half west of U.S. 41. For additional information, call (813) 641-9451. NO BAKE PEANUT-BUTTER PIE 1 8-ounce package cream cheese 1  1/2 cups confectioner's sugar 1 cup peanut butter 1 cup milk 1 16-ounce package frozen whipped topping, thawed 2 9-inch prepared graham cracker crusts Beat together cream cheese and confectioner's sugar. Mix in peanut butter and milk, and then beat until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spoon the mixture into two graham cracker pie shells, cover and freeze until firm. Makes two, 9-inch pies.

Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.

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