Monday, July 21, 2008

Bluefish with Gin and Lime Butter

Bluefish -- the ultimate test of one's love for fish. Why is its cult-like following so small? Here is my guess. Its flesh is not the sexy orange of salmon or neutral white of halibut. It's brown. Ugly, unappetizing brown. Upscale restaurants don't serve it. Food TV doesn't feature it. If my memory serves me right, I saw it mentioned in a mainstream food magazine only once. But let's get one thing straight -- it has nothing to do with the quality people refer to as "fishiness." Fresh bluefish is neither smelly nor fishy (unless you overcook it, of course).

Ask any chef about bluefish and her eyes glaze over with the dreaminess no other fish can evoke. When kissed by a blast of heat, this ferocious ocean beast transforms into an elegant prince. The off-putting brown flesh turns silver and supple. Bluefish has casual elegance. It has a voice. The voice of the waves that can't be subdued with a marinade or hidden with a sauce.

I am not sure if I should be telling you all this. Buying bluefish at $5-8 per pound always makes my heart sing (especially, when compared to $20 for halibut or striped bass). So this is strictly between us, ok? We don't want to turn my dear bluefish into the next high-profile fish.

Bluefish with Gin and Lime Butter

Fish substitutions: If you don't live on a the Atlantic coast, you probably don't see bluefish in your local fish market. Luckily, this recipe works well with any fish that is not too dense (in other words, don't use swordfish, tuna, marlin, etc). Mackerel will yield the results closest to bluefish.

Serves 4

1 1/2 Lb bluefish fillet with skin
1/4 cup very finely diced red onion (or shallot)
2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp gin (or more lime juice if you don't have gin on hand)
2 1/2 Tbsp butter
Salt and Pepper
Chopped mint, basil, or cilantro for garnish
  1. Line the broiler pan with foil and preheat the broiler.
  2. Dry both sides of bluefish extremely well on paper towels and place on the prepared broiler pan skin-side down.
  3. Sprinkle the flesh side very generously with salt and pepper.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the onions with lime juice and gin and spread evenly over bluefish.
  5. Cut the butter into 8 pieces and place on top of bluefish at equal intervals.
  6. Broil bluefish 4 inches away from the flame until browned, 3-5 minutes, being careful not to burn the onions (check every couple of minutes). If the bluefish is not cooked through by the time the onions brown, move it to the 425F oven to finish. The total cooking time (broiling plus baking) should be about 8 minutes per inch of thickness. To test for doneness, separate the flakes in the thickest part and look inside. Bluefish is done when just a trace of translucency remains in the center.
  7. Garnish with chopped herbs and serve spooning the juices over the fish. For the full New-England-in-the-summer effect, serve on the porch with a view of a light house, the rumble of the waves, and a beat up Volvo in the drive way.
P.S. Thank you Anonymous reader for reminding me to post a fish recipe :)


Peter M said...

Ahhhh, you bring back fond memories of having blue fish in Cape Cod.

Unknown said...

I am new to this site and I appreciate the wonderful recipes you have posted. I plan to use several soon. Also, I am not sure if the allusion was planned, but I almost fell on the floor when I read "If my memory serves me right" for it is said at least once on every Iron Chef episode I have ever watched. That number is not a few (thank you, DVR). Again, thanks for the great blog.

Tantra Flower said...

I have never had bluefish! I live within driving distance of the coast here in NC so I'm definitely going to seek some out this week.

Thank you for your wonderful recipes. You've inspired me to attempt a souffle this weekend. I'm nervous, but very much looking forward to it.


Helen said...

Hi Tantra Flower,

If you don't find bluefish on North Carolina coast right now, don't give up. There will be plenty of them once the weather turns cold. They might migrate to the north some during the summer months, so the one in the picture is from around Boston, but in winter, the blues we get are from North Carolina.


Po said...

Thanks for a great recipe! I made this for parents last night, they loved it! Don't worry I didn't take all the credit.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the recipe. This looks like it provides lots of supporting flavors for the fish, which is good because I've only really been eating fish for about three months (cooked fish, I've looked sushi for years).

I too am in NC in the Triangle area. Thanks for your tip about the cold weather, I will look for it then.

Tantra Flower said...

Thank you Helen. I think I'll call a few markets before actually making the 60 minute trip.

Cheers to you too!

Unknown said...


- Tim

MrOrph said...

You know!

I've actually caught and cooked bluefish. I am a believer!

You have it dressed great (ly).

Anonymous said...

I love blue fish.


shoki said...

I have not had blue fish but it sounds like the way red gurnard is treated here; never served in restaurants, fails in the beauty parade, but full of flavour and adaptable to many flavours.

Great blog.

Nadira said...

Insert cookie monster "om nom nom" sound here!

I love bluefish - and that recipe with the crispy potatoes from your class makes me want to get over my fear of mandolines!

chattypatra said...

I live in Texas, so I don't know if I can get bluefish here, but I have wanted to eat it since I saw the battle on Iron Chef America.

The picture makes it look yummy!

Sara said...

This is a great one, i love this recipe. Thank you

Anonymous said...

I will be in the Fisher's Island Sound in New York/CT reeling blues all weekend!...I agree that they are a highly underrated fish...From a sportsman's angle, they also present more of a challenging and engaging fight than stripers...delicious as well..

Unknown said...

Sounds soooo wonderful!

Thank you for the recipe!!!
I am trying it out tomorrow!

thanks again,

jeniheifer said...

i am salivating from looking at your web blog. i love salmon!

TAB Photographic said...

Not just having blue fish but catching blue fish is a blast!!! In a boat out in the sound between Ct. and Long Island NY, the fish boil the water attacking the smaller bunker, throw the lure and bring it through and bam! Fish on, every cast, fresh blues for a weekend party... ahhh yes... Great recipes too!

Diane said...

Helen this is the first time I have seen your blog and am very impressed. Being a long time foodie, and having retired from the food business I am delighted to find you!

darkman said...


Unknown said...

Dear Mr. Cook,

I'm a 17 year old guy in Kolkata...

I went through your blog and i have full faith on you....

Could you please suggest a nice vegetarian Pie or pudding or cake that i can make for my ...well...

Um..Girlfriend ?

Helen said...

Dear 17 year old guy,

Why don't you try my Mom's rhubarb cake. It's the easiest cake to make and very tasty. Rhubarb is out of season now, but you can substitute it with apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples and pears.

By the way, I am a Miss, not a Mr. :)


Boston Chef said...

Helen! We wish we had this recipe last week when we caught some bluefish off of Newport... next time!

Check out our bluefish - and fluke!

Unknown said...

Now I am "googling" ... do we get Blue Fish this far south? This looks wonderful, and I don't cook fish nearly often enough, although it is the ONLY thing I order when we dine out. My poor daughter has to close her bedroom door when she smells any fish. She is a chicken and beef-gril, lol ... so I try to be considerate even though deprived!

Lilly said...

Oh my, that looks devine. i plan to do this one soon. Thanks

Ken said...

One important part of a good bluefish experience is it has to be eaten the same day it's caught or the day after at the latest. It goes downhill to "it's fishy" pretty quickly.

When caught, it also has to be bled or the bled/gutted or the meat will also not taste as good as it should.

It's fairly oily so it's great grilled, broiled, coated w/ mayo, etc. There's another great bluefish recipe on epicurious that uses a dill mayo w/ fresh tomato slices.

There aren't many bluefish swimming in the Boston area right now...the wacky weather has kept them south of the cape in the CT/RI area...

Helen said...

Hi Ken,

I've eaten bluefish that was in my fridge for 2 days, which means it was at least 4 days old since I got it at the fish market, and it was still fabulous. The key is that is has to be bled right after catching, like you said, and it has to be stored on ice (just like all fish). Most people just put the fish in their fridge and it's not nearly cold enough. Most fridges are around 40F, not 32-34F needed for fish.


Ken said...

Helen: if you've never tried bluefish caught/bled the same day, definitely see if you can. It's a different fish :-)
Looks like the bluefish are finally making it into Boston Harbor...

Michael Pahre said...

Great recipe! The lime in the marinade really balances out the strong flavor of the fish. Even my five-and-a-half-year-old loved it!

J Pitts said...

This reminds me of a recipe I got from John Guare one summer years ago on Nantucket. The secret is the gin. Scallions, onions, dust with flour or not, bake, broil or saute, add gin and you have a magic transformation.