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Questions about bluefish

chefMolnar Sep 23, 2011 07:53 AM

OK, I'm sure you've heard the recipe for bluefish that goes, "Place a bluefish on plank. Place the plank and the fish on a grill. Cook for 30 mins. Then throw away the fish and eat the plank."
But I grew up in upstate New York loving bluefish. I had no idea there was a stigma. So our fish market has some this weekend and I am wondering:

1. Is it true that bluefish has to be caught pretty much before your eyes to be any good? Or should fish shipped to a good store be OK?

2. Does bluefish actually take well to cedar plank grilling? Or should I leave that to salmon, trout, steelhead, etc.?

Any tips, especially on a grill, will be appreciated.

  1. k
    knucklesandwich Jul 7, 2012 04:00 PM

    Blue fish are oily, and a significant part of their muscle mass is fishy tasting red muscle fiber. It's those red muscles that give bluefish their trademark stamina. A 10lb fish has a higher percentage of red muscle than a 4lb fish.

    When you buy a bluefish fillet at a store, chances are it was cut from a fish that wasn't bled because it was caught in a net. The fillet was rinsed to clean it, and put on ice. That fillet is past its prime before you ever buy it, and goes downhill fast.

    If you have to buy bluefish, fillets from smaller fish may be a better bet.

    Ideally, bluefish should be caught, bled, filleted (without rinsing, which introduces bacteria), and eaten within 48 hours.

    A big old bluefish fillet cooked on the grill is a combination of light and dark grey meat. Some folks eat around the dark stuff, and a driven filleter with a plentiful supply of fish can trim a lot of dark muscle before cooking.

    1 Reply
    1. re: knucklesandwich
      Veggo Jul 7, 2012 04:27 PM

      In my recollection, the tastiest blues from the Long Island Sound are in early July, when they run 4-6 lbs, but by Labor Day they are over 10 lbs. and over the hill. They are such voracious and fast growing fish that there is no practical commercial market for them in their short season. At their best eating weight, they are so plentiful that fishermen give them away to all takers.

    2. k
      Kat Sep 25, 2011 04:47 PM

      I spread the top with mayo, Dijon mustard and broil. I love bluefish!

      1. chefMolnar Sep 25, 2011 08:48 AM

        Thanks for all the tips, folks, and keep them coming. The bluefish came in that day and looked fresh so I picked it up, had it fileted, and put it on the cedar plank. It was great! I used a recipe I found in the NY Times with fresh corn, mushrooms, and rosemary olive oil. The corn and mushrooms were a nice accompaniment but the real benefit was coating it with the oil and a little balsamic vinegar. The cedar gave it just the right touch. I took the little smoky fish left over and made a "pate" with cream cheese and shallots--good on bagels this morning.
        I agree with @lemons. I think a lot Americans only prefer mild fish. But I find bluefish has a nice meatiness to it and it stands up to interesting flavors. And it's pretty cheap. Maybe we shouldn't tell too many people.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chefMolnar
          Cheese Boy Sep 25, 2011 01:18 PM

          Chef, I too have fished for all sizes of Bluefish:
          Snappers (baby Bluefish), Cocktail Bluefish (under 5 lbs) , and Gorilla Bluefish (10 lbs and up) ... all from the NY bight. Blues cook best in cartoccio IMO. Try toppings using different mustards, evoo, and thinly sliced yellow onions. Give that a go. If you have access to a smoker (or know anyone who has), try smoking the fish whole or otherwise. Cedar or hickory chips might be an option, if you prefer either of those tastes.

          1. re: chefMolnar
            mcf Jul 7, 2012 05:13 PM

            I think fresh bluefish is a really sweet and mild flesh, as long as you leave out the dark strips.

          2. mrbigshotno.1 Sep 25, 2011 07:12 AM

            I lived on LI for awhile 35 years ago and bought them from guys on the side of the road out of ice chests for $2 apiece, they were great, filet them ancube up the meat, marinate in teryaki sauce and shish kabob them out on the grill, mmm mmm. Cut away the dark red meat though, no good.

            1. EricMM Sep 23, 2011 03:20 PM

              Since I love fishing, I greatly appreciate bluefish. I only eat bluefish that I catch myself. If cleaned soon after being caught, it can keep for 2 days in the fridge. Most people say to only eat the small ones, under 4 lbs, saying larger ones taste too strong. I prefer the big ones...the bigger the better. My ideal eating size is 10 lbs...but I'm usually not that lucky. I can detect no difference in flavor between a 10 lb blue and a 1 lb blue...I prefer the thicker slab of meat. What's more important than size is where and when it is caught. Late season bluefish can be stronger flavored than spring bluefish, if they have been feeding on bunker (menhaden) all summer. But location is most important of all. I live in NYC, and do most of my fishing at my summer place on the North Fork of LI, about 90 miles east. Bluefish I have caught near NYC are very strong tasting, even small 2 lb fish. Blues from out east are always sweet and mild...even in the fall. I had a 14 lb fish caught in Oct. that tasted as sweet and mild as the baby snapper blues. Of course it was eaten less than 24 hours after being caught. Never planked them, but I'm sure they would be fine. I like to grill them. Small ones I grill whole, scales on, sides slashed, with a little garlic and salt rubbed in the slashes. Large fillets also with scales on, flesh lightly salted and peppered, along with any seasoning you like (A mustard-mayo mix is traditional, but I think just pepper and lemon is fine). The scales keep the fish from sticking to the grill. When cooked, the meat lifts right off the skin, leaving much of the dark meat behind. A real favorite is with an oreganata topping. Skinned fillets are baked in the oven halfway, then topped with the breadcrum mixture and cooked unti done. One of my all time favorite fish dishes!

              2 Replies
              1. re: EricMM
                MGZ Sep 25, 2011 07:02 AM

                An excellent response. I too am a fan of such a grilling method, but I will also leave some larger blues whole and "stuffed" with lemon, garlic, chiles, and oregano.

                Another technique for filets is to place them in foil packets with wine, herbs, garlic, etc. on the grill. Indirect or medium direct heat will work.

                1. re: MGZ
                  mcf Jul 7, 2012 05:12 PM

                  I do that after a soak in milk, the lactic acid does something nice to them. Then I cover them inside and out with lemon slices, maybe garlic, white wine, herbs... into a packet on the grill.

              2. b
                Breezychow Sep 23, 2011 03:18 PM

                Bluefish is wonderful - so long as it's absolutely FRESH. Just like Mackerel, Sardines, & other oily fish, this is a fish that spoils fairly rapidly after catching, & needs to be treated well & quickly in transit.

                When purchasing filets, go for the smaller rather than the larger ones - they'll be milder in flavor. But do to the naturally robust flavor of any Bluefish, it can stand up to wonderfully strong seasonings. Think salsas, Greek (feta, red onion, crushed red pepper flakes, lemon), Spanish (spicy tomato sauces), etc.

                1. l
                  lemons Sep 23, 2011 02:11 PM

                  We can get it here in the middle of the country and it's kept its freshness, and I, too, love it. Many people don't, though; around here, people want fish that tastes like chicken. (Generations of fish sticks on Fridays probably did that.)

                  1. m
                    magiesmom Sep 23, 2011 02:05 PM

                    I like it cooked in a pan over sauteed onions or leeks and potatoes or thinly sliced white sweet potatoes.

                    1. ChefJune Sep 23, 2011 10:22 AM

                      I've never cooked it on a cedar plank, but I do love bluefish. I generally broil it after slathering the top with a mixture of mayo and Dijon Mustard with a squirt of lemon juice.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ChefJune
                        h
                        howster Sep 23, 2011 01:02 PM

                        I make my blue fish 2 ways I put the fillets in tomatoe sauceand bake for 20-30 min or i cover the fllets with horse radish sauce and bake till flakey (30Min). alway comes out good. If the strip of dark meat down the middle is to much i trim that.

                      2. greygarious Sep 23, 2011 09:25 AM

                        When I see it in the supermarket, I ask to smell it before buying. Cook the same day. I usually bake it topped with shredded vegetables and some form of soy sauce (tamari, teriyaki, miso, etc.)

                        1. n
                          Nanzi Sep 23, 2011 08:52 AM

                          When we used to get it in Jersey, we put it in a pan with butter, parsley, salt & pepper & white wine, usually a Rhine or Moselle, and put it on the grill. Cooked til it was flakey, like us!! It was our favorite fish.

                          1. q
                            qianning Sep 23, 2011 08:51 AM

                            ask the store when they received the fish, i've had good luck with bluefish from my local supermarket as long as i buy it & cook it the same day it got to the store (granted its not as good as caught it myself bluefish, but hey that isn't always possible).

                            i personally prefer bluefish grilled to planked, but have had it planked and it works just fine. i prefer bluefish on apple/fruit wood planks rather than cedar, but this is all a matter of personal taste.

                            1. King of Northern Blvd Sep 23, 2011 08:40 AM

                              I would think a plank would work as I have had smoked bluefish pate that was quite good.

                              1. Terrie H. Sep 23, 2011 08:24 AM

                                Since the term bluefish seems to refer to different fish regionally, I'm going to go out on a limb here and talk about bluefish we catch here in the Chesapeake Bay. The best fish I've ever put in my mouth was bluefish we caught while trailing a line on a casual sail. We ate it an hour later. I am sure that was the best fish I've ever had.

                                I have never heard of cooking bluefish on cedar planks - it must be a regional prep, but I think it would work since it it has a bit more oil.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Terrie H.
                                  chefMolnar Sep 23, 2011 12:45 PM

                                  It's not regional as far as I know. I just had a couple of cedar planks around and wondered if bluefish would work with them.I guess in NY we got them from Long Island or the mid-Atlantic. The fact that they smoke bluefish should be encouraging.

                                2. GretchenS Sep 23, 2011 07:57 AM

                                  Bluefish does need to be very fresh to be good, and when it is very fresh, it is my absolute favorite. I buy it when it is clearly moist and not showing any gaps in the flesh and I cook and eat it the same day, although leftovers are good the next day too. I have never tried planking it. Most often I broil it slathered with a mix of Dijon mustard, lime juice and lime zest.

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