Not many people extol the virtues of bluefish, except maybe for sport fishermen, who know that bluefish are fighters and that spotting and reeling one in is like going after Moby Dick.
Few praise the fish as food though. People say it’s too “fishy,” which seems odd, because it is, well, fish.
But hear this folks: bluefish is one of those healthy ones, with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. AND, it is remarkably CHEAP, which is always a good thing, but especially so in a down economy! Take a look at the prices in your local fish store and see for yourself. I did last week. The bluefish was less than half the price of the others. This one purchase could take a sizable load off your food budget.
Of course you don’t cook something just because it’s healthy or economical. It also has to taste terrific, which bluefish does when it’s cooked properly. I’ve learned quite a bit about how to cook bluefish properly over the years thanks in part to my neighbor’s husband, who goes out occasionally to catch “the blues” and always brings back several filets for me. Then we have a bluefish feast and I get to cook up several new recipes.
It’s true, bluefish isn’t bland. It does have a distinctive flavor. You have to know what to do with it to get the best out of it.
I’ve found that the way to treat bluefish right is to bake, grill or broil it. The flesh is too oily for frying and too soft for poaching.
It’s also the kind of fish that needs bold ingredients that hold their own and don’t let the fish overwhelm them. Like fresh chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, chopped cilantro, sun dried tomatoes, imported olives, orange peel and such. And acidic ingredients that balance the oiliness (lime or lemon juice, vinegar, wine, tomatoes, orange or grapefruit juice and so on).
Sometimes I cook bluefish plain, or with just a sprinkling of salt, pepper and lemon juice, but then serve it with a robustly flavored sauce that enriches and complements the fish’s soft, oily texture. For example, I mix up dairy sour cream or thick, plain Greek style yogurt with ingredients such as Dijon-style mustard, horseradish, crushed pepper, wasabi and so on. It’s easy and takes about two minutes to put together, which you can do while the fish is cooking.
The very first time I made bluefish, it was from my grandmother’s “recipe,” – not ever written down, but the way she made it. I’ve included it here - Grandma's Baked Bluefish. But I can’t help playing with a formula, so I change recipes all the time. The second baked bluefish recipe is the same when you take a close look. That is, the fish is cooked the same way, it’s just that the ingredients are a little different. Try them both. And if you have any leftovers, make the Bluefish Cakes, which are not only delicious but extra, extra economical. I serve these on toasted buns with mayo spiked with lime juice.