Bookcover of Panhandle to Pan by Irv Miller

PANHANDLE TO PAN: Recipes and Stories from Florida’s New Redneck Riviera

Irv Miller

Globe Pequot Press
November 1, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1493008148

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Irv Miller

Chef Irv Miller has been working along the Florida Panhandle and writing about the foods of the Gulf Coast for three decades. He has received regional acclaim for his Northwest Florida Cooking during the Florida Cuisine movement, and in 1999, along with his partners, opened Jackson’s Steakhouse in Pensacola, where he is executive chef. Miller wrote the weekly food column for Pensacola’s Independent News for two years, as well as hosted the PBS show Flavors of the Coast. He is a contributor to the “Chef’s Corner” column in the Pensacola New Journal, Jackson’s Steakhouse monthly newsletter, and the Viva Florida 500 website, and has appeared on Emeril’s Florida television episode “Viva Florida”. Miller’s short essay and recipes are included in The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook 2014, and he was selected to represent the state of Florida in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off 2012. Chef Miller has been a five-time performing chef for the James Beard Foundation, and has served three years as a founding member of the Pensacola Celebrity Chefs. Miller’s longtime commitment has been to the Florida Panhandle and Southern-inspired foods. He lives in Pensacola, Florida.

The Florida Panhandle is the last great regional culinary secret of the state of Florida. The foods and agriculture of Florida’s Northwest Gulf of Mexico touch the cultural heart and soul of all who visit the region. With fresh seafood such as blue crab and grouper, just-picked produce such as peaches and corn, and traditional foods like fried catfish and hushpuppies, the Florida Panhandle is one of the last unwritten about culinary areas of the country. Geographically closer to Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana than Central and South Florida, Northwest Florida’s cooking traditions are heavily influenced by the surrounding states. Chef Irv Miller, in his first cookbook PANHANDLE TO PAN: 150 Recipes and Stories of Florida’s New Redneck Riviera, takes readers on a journey through this agriculturally abundant region, sharing personal stories, expertise, and unique recipes from throughout the Florida Panhandle. With personalized head notes and sidebars, a historical timeline detailing how cuisine developed in the region, and recipes for every occasion, PANHANDLE TO PAN is sure to convince readers that the Florida Panhandle is a lot more than sandy soil and real estate development.

Cannonball Oysters with Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce

(Serves 4–6)


In Pensacola’s historic downtown district rests Plaza Ferdinand, a landmark park where General Andrew Jackson oversaw the transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States in 1821, eight years before he became the seventh President of the United States (1829–1837). He’s the namesake for the original Jackson’s Restaurant right across the street, a one-of-a-kind eatery that I founded along with my business partners Barry Phillips and Walter Steigleman in 1999. The award-winning restaurant is now Jackson’s Steakhouse and is owned by Collier Merrill and his brothers Will and Burney. 
Jackson’s is only a cannonball’s fire away from several enormous, black replica cannons positioned throughout the park. One evening at the restaurant, I was visiting with my good friend and marksman “Cannon Ball Curtis” and created this simple oyster recipe for him. 
Select Apalachicola oysters are ideal for this panko-breaded, crispy-fried preparation adorned with an easy-to-replicate, Vietnamese-style, sweet and spicy chile sauce.

For the oysters:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 pint milk
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 24 Gulf Coast oysters, freshly shucked and drained
  • Oil, for frying (vegetable or peanut)

For the sweet and spicy chile sauce:

  • 1⁄8 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon red chile paste (Sambal Oelek brand preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes

To make the oysters

Create a milk wash by combining eggs and milk in a small mixing bowl and whisking until blended. Place the flour in a shallow mixing bowl, add the salt and pepper, and blend well. Place the panko in a third mixing bowl.

Roll the oysters in the seasoned flour. a few at a time, until they are completely dusted and evenly coated. Transfer them to the milk wash, coat well, immediately place them in the bowl of panko crumbs, and coat well.

In a deep skillet, heat the frying oil to 350°F. Deep-fry the breaded oysters for 1–2 minutes (depending on their size) until golden brown. Drain well and transfer fried oysters to paper towels to drain farther.

To make the sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and blend with a whisk. Let the sauce sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to fully combine.

To assemble

Toss oysters with as much of the Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce as you like. Serve with toothpicks.

Gulf Coast Crab Toast

(Serves 4−6)

crab toast

Gulf Coast Blue Crab is known all over the world for its sweet flavor and tender meat. The commercial crab season extends year-round, and crab pickers from coast to coast handpick and sort wild harvested hard-shell blue crabs for all grades of crab. My favorite is backfin or jumbo lump crab. Along the Gulf Coast states, from Florida to Louisiana, commercially caught crabs are often lightly salted for boiling before the crabmeat is removed by hand for packing, shipping, or retailing.
Often, recreational crabbers and regional seafood cooks alike, boil their live crabs with a mesh bag of Zatarain’s Crab Boil at home and in restaurants all along the Gulf region. The robust spice bag concoction contains mustard seed, whole coriander seeds, allspice, bay leaf, and pepper—a testament to the Louisiana region
Here in the Florida Panhandle region, I enjoy making this decadent chilled crab salad recipe to spoon onto toast rounds. It is especially delicious with Gulf Coast blue crab provided by regional pickers from the Florida to Bayou La Batre in Mobile County, Alabama.

For the toast:

  • 1 small French baguette for toasted rounds
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing

For the crab:

  • 2 cups Gulf Coast backfin crab
  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise (Duke’s brand preferred)
  • 2 tablespoon Creole mustard (Zatarain’s brand preferred)
  • 1–2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Generous dashes hot sauce (Ed’s Red brand preferred)
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped celery, whole leaves reserved
  • 5 tablespoons finely chopped green onions (whites and greens)
  • ¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay Seasoning preferred)
  • ½ teaspoon finely microplaned zest of lemon
  • Dash freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley

To make the toast

Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice the French baguette into ¼-inch rounds. Arrange slices on a baking pan and brush lightly with olive oil. Toast until just light brown, 5–7 minutes. Turn and brush the other side lightly with olive oil, toast again until golden, and set aside.

To make the crab

Remove and discard any cartilage from the backfin crab. Set crabmeat aside. In a small mixing bowl whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, hot sauce, celery, green onions, seafood seasoning, and lemon zest. Gently fold in lumps of fresh crab. Season the dip with ground black pepper.

To assemble

Spoon crab dib onto toasted French bread rounds.


These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:

Recipes from PANHANDLE TO PAN: Recipes and Stories from Florida’s New Redneck Riviera by Irv Miller. (Globe Pequot Press, November 2015; $24.95/paperback; ISBN: 978-1493008148).  

Contact: Jessica DeFranco