Monday, August 27, 2012

Bluefish with Crispy Potatoes, 2.0

When people ask me how I learned so much about fish, I tell them that I like talking to fish mongers.  It didn't come as a surprise that Bob Arruda from Captain Marden's was a walking encyclopedia of fish.  But little did I know that I was talking not only to a knowledgeable fishmonger and an avid fisherman, but one of the most talented photographers in Boston.  When I told Bob how difficult and frustrating I find food photography, he offered to help.  Last week I invited him for lunch and we spent hours taking pictures of food.   

I cooked us a serious challenge: bluefish with crispy potatoes.  It's gray, it's shapeless, it's homey, and it's hard to plate.  It's my worst nightmare to photograph, but one of my favorite dishes to cook and eat.  For an appetizer, I thought we'll go with ratatouille on toast since I had a huge pot of it in the fridge.  

Bob turned out to be my favorite kind of teacher.  He didn't take any pictures for me.  He talked me through it and made me figured it out by trial and error.  After a few hours, I ended up with pictures that made me happy.  I hope they make you happy too, but most importantly, I hope they make you cook.  Bluefish is in season now in New England.  This dish, inspired by Marcella Hazan's recipe, will make a bluefish lover out of any skeptic.  Trust me.  I have hundreds of such converts from my One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish class.  And ratatouille is a perfect dish to make after a visit to your local farmer's market this time of year.  

Bluefish with Crispy Potatoes, version 2.0

I have blogged about this dish 7 years ago (click at your own risk -- there is a really scary picture).  It's time for an update.  The best pan for this dish is a 12 inch well-seasoned cast iron skillet.  It produced the crunchiest potatoes with the easiest release.  If you don't have one, don't fret.  Use any oven safe skillet or a baking dish (like a 10 x 16 inch Pyrex).  Keep in mind that the bluefish doesn't need to be in one piece.  If you have thicker and thinner pieces, overlap the thinner ones so that they don't overcook by the time the thick ones are done.  The goal is to have all the fish be about the same thickness.  

Serves 4

1 1/2 Lb bluefish fillet, skin removed 
1 garlic clove, mashed
2 tsp fresh squeezed lime juice (or lemon juice)
4 medium boiling potatoes (red bliss or yukon gold)
1/4 cup olive oil 
1 Tbsp butter, cut into very thin slivers
1 Tbsp chopped parsley, cilantro, dill, or basil
Salt and black pepper
  1. Rub the bluefish with garlic, splash with lime juice, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper on all sides.  Place in the fridge while preheating the oven.
  2. Set the racks in the bottom third and middle positions of your oven. Preheat to 475F.
  3. Peel potatoes and slice into very thin (1/8" thick circles) using an adjustable blade slicer.  Place potatoes in your cast iron skillet or the pan of your choice.  Season generously with salt and pepper and mix with olive oil. Spread evenly. Bake in the bottom third of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender, crisp around the edges of the dish, and brown on the bottom.
  4. Turn down the heat to 400F.  Dry the bluefish with paper towels.  Place on top of potatoes.  Top with butter.  Place the pan in the middle of the oven, and cook until bluefish is mostly opaque, but a bit of translucency remains in the center when you pull apart the flakes in the thickest part.  This will take about 12 minutes per inch of thickness of the fish.  This timing is longer than normal fish cooking time since the potatoes absorb a lot of the oven heat.  During the cooking process and right before serving, it doesn't hurt to baste the fish with the fat accumulating in the bottom of the pan (do this once or twice).  Tilt the pan, scoop up some fat with the spoon and pour over the fish.  
  5. Sprinkle with parsley, let rest for 7 minutes, and serve.
The cherry tomatoes are optional, but they look good and taste good.  The bunch of thyme, on the other hand, is purely cosmetic.  It's sturdier than parsley and held up well during the photo shoot.  Having it in a bunch looked better to me than scattering it all over the fish.  Maybe one day I'll learn how to make it look good and taste good at the same time.  For now I'll take what I can get.  

1 comment:

Casey said...

Wow - perfect timing.

I picked up some bluefish at the fish store today and came here for the bluefish + potatoes recipe, and found this.

Thank you!