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Questions about bluefish

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.

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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

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

        1. 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. 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. 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. 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

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

                  1. 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. 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. 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

                          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

                            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. 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. 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

                              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

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

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

                                1. 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

                                    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. off topic but it certainly is quite ironic that many of the users here seem to know about bluefish, implying they go fishing. i'm a fisherman myself and just ate a cocktail blue today. caught it off an inlet in new jersey. you certainly do want to eat the smaller bluefish, known as cocktails; nothing incredibly large. bluefish tend to have a very fish-oily game taste to it, so the larger they are, the more you'll taste it. as long as the store is keeping them fresh and on ice, i'm sure it'll be okay. i scaled it, gutted and head off, seasoned with some herbs, lathered with olive oil, stuffed with thinly sliced tomatoes, red onions, lemon, and garlic, and cooked on a grill. in order to not get the skin to stick to the grill: oil the grill as well, and use a thin metal spatula to quickly get under the fish and flip.

                                    1. I belong to a CSF, from which I get 2# of fillets biweekly. I cook one pound the day of pickup, which gives me three meals that I eat over the course of several days. I freeze the remaining pound raw.
                                      So at one point, I'd had frozen bluefish fillets for something like 6 weeks before thawing and cooking. Originally, they were swimming within 24 hours of pick-up and were surrounded in ice until I froze them. Nevertheless, once I thawed them I could smell that cod-liver-oil type smell. Clearly the oxidation of the oils continued in the freezer. Using the Nobu miso-ginger marinade before broiling cut some of the accompanying strong fish oil flavor but I've learned a lesson. Next time we get bluefish I won't freeze any of it for more than a week or two.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        If anybody has access to a smoker, try smoking a bluefish. The smoke masks all that "unpleasantness" really well.

                                        @Greygarious ...
                                        Where is your CSF located ... and what has been your favorite fish so far?

                                        1. re: Cheese Boy

                                          It's Cape Ann Fresh Catch, out of Gloucester, MA. I'm in my third 8-week "season". Bluefish and monkfish tail are old favorites of mine so I was happy when we got those. I love halibut but it is not a species fished by the day-boats that supply the CSF. I really liked the texture and flavor of hake, which was new to me. Some days' catch has been cusk, which has been recommended to me, but it has yet to be on the schedule for my pick-up days. Fingers crossed. Other typical catch includes sole, flounder, dabs, pollock, redfish, stripers, and haddock. I joke about needing to change my name to "Gill-da".

                                          1. re: greygarious

                                            Gloucester Mass !!! Now we're talking fishing. Wow.

                                            Monkfish, hake, and haddock are my favorite amongst the list of fish you've listed. They are all FIRM flesh fish. Pollock/cod are a favorite of mine also for the same reason I just mentioned.

                                            Greygarious, I had no idea you lived in that part of the world. You are one lucky duck. Happy feasting !!