Plentiful bluefish are right size now for baking and grilling

Catchin' and cookin'

September 26, 1990|By Bill Burton

Better late than never. Most of the bluefish so abundant in the Chesapeake Bay are now over a pound; fish of two to three pounds are not uncommon. That's the right size for stuffing and baking, grilling and also for a modified version of an old rich and buttery poached bluefish dish.

Blues in the current run are small enough that they aren't oily or fishy, though they are plump after feeding well in the Chesapeake for most of the summer. No strong flavor, thus no need to skin them. Scale them, then take advantage of the skin to hold the flesh together better when cooking.

Blues should be remain in the upper bay for several more weeks at least. They could stick around into November if the fall chill doesn't get too severe. Keep in mind the key to top bluefish table fare is to chill them immediately after caught, and keep them cold until cooking.

In cooler weather many fishermen down play the importance of promptly icing down the catch, but it remains very important, especially with the more oily species such as blues and Spanish mackerel.

To capture utmost flavor from blues, cook them within two days after they are caught. The same holds true for mackerel that are running with the blues in the mid and lower bay.

If possible, cook either species the day it is caught for top flavor. The other day, I did just that with a Spanish mackerel of 3 pounds, and the simple dish was excellent - and would work for blues. Mackerel and blues are interchangeable in recipes.

After scaling and dressing the mackerel, I rubbed it well with onion, then salt and pepper, and brushed it liberally with a mix of equal portions of Dijon mustard and mayonnaise. I placed it in a microwave and precooked for three minutes at a half-way setting.

While it was still warm I placed it in a hinged grill then grilled it over hot coals for five minutes on each side with the top of the charcoal cooker closed.

The precooking in the microwave reduced the grilling time enough that the fish didn't dry out. It was moist, tasty and with excellent texture.

Here's something else to try with a dressed whole blue or mackerel (minus head, tail and innards). It's a less rich version of an old favorite of mine passed on by Detroit restaurateur Chuck Muir.

Poached Bluefish 1/4 cup light cooking oil

1 stick melted butter or margarine

2 anchovies

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 clove of garlic

1 teaspoon parsley

4 ounces white chablis wine

2 tablespoons pimento

1/8 cup sweet onion

Salt and pepper to taste

Emulsify garlic in blender and add to margarine. Chop green pepper, onion and anchovies finely, add to all other ingredients, blend well.

Place fish in sauce pan, pour the mix over it. You want just enough to cover the fish. Add more water or wine if necessary.

Bring to boil; maintain vigorous boiling 4 to 6 minutes. If you want something closer to the original dish, though very rich and loaded with calories, use three sticks of butter; add no oil, or lemon.

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