Bluefish Shopping Tips
A fresh fish should not smell fishy nor have milky, opaque eyes; it should have bright red gills, firm flesh, and a tight anal cavity.
Bluefish Cooking Tips
Whole fish should be stored upright in ice in the refrigerator.
Elise founded Simply Recipes in 2003 and led the site until 2019. She has an MA in Food Research from Stanford University.
The first time I encountered bluefish was in the Massachusetts kitchen of my friend Jill. Her famously unflappable son John was practically beside himself with anticipation of diving into one of the fillets his mom had prepared.
I had never heard of bluefish, which are indeed blue, both outside and in.
They're an east coast fish, we don't have them on the west coast. Their season is short and they spoil very quickly, so you have to get them fresh and eat them right away. Bluefish are considered sport fishing fish because they are so aggressive.
Oddly to me, the fish isn't that popular to eat. Perhaps because if it's good it's great, and if it's off, it's really rank.
In any case, it can be had cheaply. I bought this big fillet for $2.79 a pound. The bill came to $1.89, which is just unheard of for good fish where I live.
The fish is an oily fish, so if you like canned tuna, sardines, mackerel, you'll be right at home with bluefish. Otherwise, stick to cod or sole.
For this preparation of bluefish, we've baked it in foil with lemon, butter, herbs, and a little white wine. The lemon is particularly important to cut the fattiness of the fish.
Bluefish is also excellent grilled or smoked.
Do you like bluefish? How do you prepare it?
Pan Fried Bluefish Recipe
Follow our step-by-step, photo illustrated instructions for this Pan Fried Bluefish Recipe. These saltwater fish are absolutely delicious and easy to pan fry in your cast iron skillet. Just add a simple breading, pan fry and enjoy.
Pan Fried Bluefish Recipe:
To the best of my knowledge, I enjoyed Pan Fried Bluefish for the very FIRST time… just a few days ago. My niece had invited her dad (my brother) and I for supper a couple of nights ago and fried up a big old pan of Bluefish that her husband had recently caught. I was totally surprised at how great these fish were and wondered why in the world I had never had them before.
That night, we dined on Bluefish, homemade coleslaw and super thin cornbread cakes. Talk about some good eating….I loved it. The interesting part though is that my niece doesn’t like fish or any type of seafood. Wait, it gets better. Just a few years ago, she owned and operated a restaurant that served BBQ, Chicken AND Seafood. Go figure. She just doesn’t like the taste of it but she sure did know how to cook it.
You can skip on down a bit for the step-by-step instructions and the printable recipe but, I’d like to share just a few photos about a recent trip that my brother and I made together. I’ll try to be brief but if you know me at all, that usually doesn’t happen. Anyway….
About a week ago, my brother and I visited the Southport, North Carolina area. It’s a long story but we left home on Friday with 2 Carolina Cooker Pig Cookers on a large trailer headed for delivery to the Marine Corp Air Station at Cherry Point. My brother sells the pig cookers and was delivering 2 more of them to a customer at Cherry Point. My brother had told me to pack for an overnight stay because once we delivered the pig cookers, we would head on down to the coast and try a little fishing. “If they are biting good enough,” he said, “we’ll stay overnight and head back home on Saturday.”
All was well until about 30 minutes away from the delivery destination. We called and found out the place we were delivering to had closed early that day. Seems the following Monday was a holiday and they wouldn’t be open again until Tuesday. Older brother said he hated to haul the cookers back home, about a 3 hour ride, so he said we’d ride down to his beach house at Oak Island and spend the night. He’s had this house at the beach for 10 years and due to our work schedules, I had never even been to his place at the beach. OK, that’s another long story.
So, we headed further south and arrived at his place about dark that Friday evening. The next day, we drove over to Southport, which is nearby and, visited the area where the 2012 US Open King Mackerel Fishing Tournament was taking place.
The tournament had over 400 boats fishing for King Mackerel. There was a large crowd of folks down at the boat docks watching the boats bring in their catch. It was a pretty impressive site if you enjoy fishing any at all. Boats were coming in just about the time we arrived and we watched as they hauled in some very large King Mackerel that day.
I have no idea who these people are but this guy has a fish I wished that I had caught. It wasn’t the winning fish however, which turned out to be about 47lbs. Biggest fish caught paid a Grand Prize of $25,000.00. Not bad for a few hours work on such a beautiful day. The weather was just perfect that day by the way. Lots of sunshine and about 72 degrees…..what more could you ask for.
We spent an hour or so walking around and watching the fish being officially weighed in. Several large tents were setup to facilitate the weigh in and a stage was setup for some music later in the evening. For us though….it was time to go fishing.
We went over to one of the piers at Oak Island and fished for a couple of hours. We had hoped we might get into some “spots” but it wasn’t going to happen that day. We ended up only catching a few really small Croakers and some Pinfish, nothing big enough to keep but, we had a good time just talking with other folks that were fishing all up and down the pier. We left around 5pm, went out to supper where we enjoyed some great seafood and then pretty much headed back out on the pier for several more hours of late night fishing. Again, we just weren’t catching anything big enough to keep. The beautiful breeze and just sitting out on that pier made it all worthwhile though….no denying that fact.
This is my brothers boat. He’s had it for five years and I had never been out on it. There’s a good reason for that though….I’m just not a boat type of person. I have become a pretty avid fisherman over the past years and have spent many hours up at Harris Lake fishing off their pier. That’s freshwater fishing and I love fishing for Crappie. They’re fun to catch and super delicious to fry up as well.
So, on Sunday, my brother convinced me to go out on his boat. My biggest fear has always been just getting in and out of the boat. My old legs aren’t what they use to be and I can’t swim. It’s just never sounded like a good thing to get into a boat.
We took the boat down to a public boat ramp area and hanging on to anything I could find, I managed to settle down into the boat. We rode over to Southport once again and then took a ride back on a waterway area near where his beach house is. I didn’t have my camera with me and I missed some pictures of some totally gorgeous million dollar homes along the way.
I don’t fish on Sundays. It’s a personal preference and I don’t fault anyone that does. My daddy never did and I decided once I started that I wouldn’t either. We enjoyed the ride that afternoon and pulled the boat out of water right about dark. Then, we headed back over to the same Seafood House for more fried fish and shrimp.
That’s my one and only older brother on the left. The fellow on the right is a friend of his that refers to my brother as one of his mentors. He joined us at the beach house on Monday and took us both out for lunch. We had a delicious home-cooking style of meal for lunch and then we headed back out onto the water.
We went to another marina this time to unload the boat. The temperatures had dropped a good bit by this time as cooler weather had moved into the area. We rode out into the ocean itself for about half a mile but then turned around and headed back for the waterway to do some fishing. That pleased me a BUNCH. I haven’t got into my story of having been afflicted with motion sickness all of my life. It’s true, that’s another reason that I’m just not a boat type of person. The waterway was much smoother though.
I hate to rub it in but, I caught more fish than both of them combined that afternoon. (Wait…are they reading this?) Problem was, it was still some very small Croakers and Pinfish and none of us ever caught anything big enough to keep.
So, what’s that got to do with THIS recipe. Nothing….nothing at all…other than its about fish and fishing and being able to spend some time with my older brother and making a new friend. We ended up staying 4 nights at his house…..something we had NEVER done before. I guess not being able to deliver those pig cookers turned out very well in the long run. We did get to drop them off on the following Tuesday and headed back home. I just hope and pray we can do it again sometime soon.
Pan Fried Bluefish Recipe: You’ll need these ingredients. Please note though, this will pretty much work with any kind of fish that you might want to use. It’s a basic recipe and can easily be converted or adapted to other fish.
Don’t let the color of those fillets fool you. This is one more good fish in my book. You might hear a different opinion on that somewhere else though. Some folks think the Bluefish has a very “fishy” taste but I didn’t think that was the case. I’ve also been told that you have to drain the blood from these fish right after you catch them so they avoid having a foul taste to them.
As it turned out, my niece and her husband headed off to the Outer Banks of North Carolina the day after we got back home. That’s how I ended up with this Bluefish. HE caught them. I’m glad he did and I’m really glad that they both shared some with me. I enjoyed my meal at their house that afternoon and when I left, they handed me two big packages of fish to bring home. So, if you’re all set to give them a try….Let’s Get Cooking.
The first thing I do is setup my dredging station. The fish have been rinsed and cleaned and they are ready for breading. As pictured above, I have the fish on a plate in the upper left corner. Then, I have a container with plain flour, one with milk and one with cornmeal. I also have another plate to place them on once they have been dipped into the flour. To be honest, I rearranged it a bit after I took this photo.
In case you don’t recognize them, those are plastic containers from where I’ve been eating Chinese Takeout. One of my readers left the comment on another post that her husband referred to them as “Chinese Tupperware.” I liked it. They are just too useful to toss in the garbage so I’ve been growing a collection of them in one of the cabinets.
First thing is to grab one of the fillets and place it in the flour. I’m using plain flour because I had it on hand. I doubt it would make any difference if you used self-rising….it’s just a matter of what you have on hand. Coat the fillet in the flour, flipping it over and making sure you have both sides well covered.
Next, dip the flour coated fillet into the milk. This is just regular whole milk from the jug. Back in my restaurant days, we always used the Evaporated Milk from the can for dipping all of our seafood before frying. I think because it’s a bit thicker that it helps hold the breading on the fish better but again, just use whatever you have on hand. Flip the fillet and be sure you get both sides good and wet.
After you pull them from the milk bath, lay the fillets on a plate, keeping them separated.
Sprinkle the fillets with salt. I found out the Bluefish need a good coating with salt to bring out more of the flavors. I went a little heavier with the salt on the second batch that I fried up.
Seasoning up the fillets at this point is just the way I like to do it. It’s just a personal preference. You could add the seasonings to the cornmeal and do it all at one time but I prefer to season them individually this way. Do whatever works best for you. This just seems to give me better control on how much of what is actually going on each fillet. Also, I don’t think it takes as much of the seasonings when you do it this way as compared to mixing up a batch with the cornmeal breader. Spices aren’t as cheap as they once were you know.
Sprinkle on some Black Pepper to taste.
Sprinkle on some Garlic Powder.
Add some Cayenne Pepper. A little spice is a good thing.
Finally, sprinkle the fillets with a generous portion of Paprika.
Then, place the seasoned fillets in the cornmeal. We’re going to coat both sides with the cornmeal.
Coat both sides very well, then gently shake off any excess. Excess cornmeal that’s not actually sticking to the fish will just fall off once you drop the fillet into the cooking oil. That usually sinks to the bottom and burns, making your cooking oil have an off type of taste. Avoid this happening by gently removing any excess at this point.
If you’re taking pictures of everything you’re doing, you might find that the fillets have dried out a bit too much to hold a decent coating of cornmeal. Even if you’re not taking pictures, you can re-dip the fillets in the milk once again to get them wetter. That way, they will hold a bit more of the cornmeal breading.
After I dipped them in the milk the second time, they went right back into the cornmeal.
Once you have several pieces coated, just sit them aside until you heat up the oil in the cast iron skillet.
In keeping with the Taste of Southern way of cooking, I’m using my cast iron skillet to fry up the fillets. Any type of frying pan will work of course. You could also use a deep fat fryer if you have one but, keep in mind we’re calling this recipe our PAN FRIED Bluefish Recipe…thus…the pan.
Pour in enough oil to fill the pan to about 1/2 inch deep with oil. Let the oil come up to frying temperature before adding the fillets. How do you do that?
One way to test that the oil is hot enough for frying is to drop a pinch of the cornmeal into the pan once it heats up. If the cornmeal just sinks to the bottom, it’s NOT hot enough for frying. On the other hand, if the cornmeal dances across the top of the hot oil….you’re good to go. Oh yeah, thermometers work pretty good too. Just saying.
That oil is HOT so be careful with this step. Carefully lower one end of a fish fillet into the hot oil. You can do this by hand if you’re cautious or you could use tongs if you have them. The oil is probably going to start popping and splattering but just let go of the fillet and let it start cooking.
Don’t overcrowd the pan with fish. The pieces need some room to cook. Add a couple of pieces and let them cook for a couple of minutes. Watch for the bottom edges to start turning brown.
When the bottom edges start to turn brown, gently flip the fillets over to cook the other side. I used tongs but a spatula or even a fork will work. If you use a fork, slip it under the bottom and carefully turn the fillet over, don’t puncture it with the fork. These pieces are firmed up enough to easily turn with the tongs.
Let them cook for about 2 minutes longer then carefully remove them from the pan.
As you take them out of the oil, place the fillets on a plate that’s been lined with several layers of paper towel so they can drain. If you need to cook some more pieces, you could turn your oven on to about 200º and just place the drained pieces on a baking sheet inside the oven. Don’t leave them on the towel if you intend to place them inside the oven. They’ll stay warm in the oven until you can fry up the rest of your batch.
Serve the fish fillets while they are warm. They’ll go great with some of our homemade Cole Slaw. You’ll find our recipe for that right here on our website. You can also fry up some hush-puppies or maybe some thin cakes of cornbread if that’s more to your liking.
I had originally intended to fry these up and make some Fish and Grits for breakfast. One problem with that…..I didn’t have any grits. Go figure. Watch for it though….I’m headed to the store to pick up some grits. I’ll do that recipe for you as well. Fish and grits are another great Southern meal good for breakfast, lunch or dinner….or anytime.
I’ll also show you a Hot Fish Sandwich so check the site for that recipe. I made a good fish sandwich out of a couple of the smaller fillets from this plate, then I cooked up a whole new batch of Bluefish. I still don’t know why I had never had this fish before now. It was a great discovery though and I hope you get a chance to try them yourself real soon. Let me know if you do.
Recipe: Smoked Bluefish Dip
In his cookbook “Cooking The Catch” Dave “Pops” Masch presents two basic recipes for smoked bluefish “dip” – one is made with cream cheese and Pops calls it “pâté” – while the second is a dip with a sour cream base.
Smoked Bluefish Pâté
- 1/2 cup cream cheese
- 1/2 cup smoked bluefish
- 1 grated medium onion
- Salt and pepper
Smoked Bluefish Dip
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 TBS horseradish
- 1 minced clove of garlic
- 1 TBS chili sauce
- 1 TBS minced parsley
- 1/2 cup mashed smoked bluefish
- Salt and pepper
I’ve tried both recipes, and they are excellent. I’ve also tried experimenting a bit with the flavors – adding Worcestershire sauce to the pâté and substituting shallots for onions was good, as was scallions and sriracha sauce in the dip instead of parsley/garlic/horseradish. Sour cream, chives and chopped red bell pepper tasted good and looked festive. Pops has suggested capers and smoked paprika as a good flavor combination, and he has even been experimenting with mascarpone cheese as a base, with a TBS of Dijon mustard for flavor. As long as you combine flavors that taste good on their own, they will be made better with the addition of smoked bluefish.
Every time I’ve made a batch of smoked bluefish dip, it’s come out a little bit different, but I’ve settled on a few preferences. I like a lot of horseradish, a good squeeze of lemon juice, and some heat from hot sauce. I also like to go with a cream cheese base but add some sour cream to thin the texture a bit and give it some tang. Here’s what I put in this weekend’s batch, best I can recall:
- 4 smoked bluefish fillets, crumbled
- 2 80z cream cheese blocks
- 1/2 cup of sour cream
- half a red onion, minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, grated
- 1-2 TBS of fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 cup of Franks Hot Sauce
As far as how to smoke the bluefish, I’ll quote Pops, who wrote in his November 2011 column:
I hate being asked questions like, “What is the best way to smoke fish?” or “What is the best recipe for striped bass?” It is like being asked, “What is the best way to make love?” – a question that cannot be answered, though even the worst way is at least interesting.
You can get pretty technical about smoking fish, with brines and rubs, even bastes and glazes, and smokers that ensure precise air flow and temperature. When it comes to smoking bluefish for dip, however, I prefer quick and easy, as the bluefish will be crumbled and mashed into the dip anyway. The goal is to cook the fish and add some smoky flavor. So instead of dragging out the dedicated smoker, I heat up the gas grill, then turn one side completely off and place the fillets on that side. Rub the grates with Canola oil so the fish won’t stick and season the fillets with a small amount of salt, pepper and cayenne. I have an infrared grill, so adding smoke is as easy as dropping a few chips of apple wood into the grate on the hot side. You can use a tinfoil pouch or a smoking box if you have a regular gas grill. It took about 30-45 minutes until the fish was cooked through. There’s no need to flip the fillets.
A couple 3-pound blues are the perfect size for smoking. The bluefish fillets set up to smoke on an infrared grill – fillets on the cold side, wood chips on the hot side. The bluefish cooks slowly, soaking up mild flavors from the wood smoke. The fillets were smoked until flaky but still slightly moist.
The base ingredients for bluefish dip. Smoked bluefish, lightly crumbled and added to the wet ingredients. Serve smoked bluefish dip on a cracker with a glass of sparkling wine.
- 1 bluefish (2 3/4 pounds), cleaned but otherwise intact
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 lemon
- 1 bunch mixed fresh herb sprigs, such as thyme, rosemary, and flat-leaf parsley
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat grill or broiler to high. Season fish with salt and pepper. Cut half the lemon into thin slices, and stuff cavity with lemon slices and herbs. Coat outside of fish with oil.
Place fish on grill or rimmed baking pan, and grill or broil until skin is charred and fish is firm to the touch, about 6 minutes. Flip fish, and grill or broil until just cooked through, about 6 minutes more.
Let rest 3 minutes. Remove top fillet by sliding a spatula between flesh and backbone (flesh should easily release), then pull out backbone. Remove bottom fillet. Squeeze remaining lemon half over fish, and serve.
Best Bluefish Recipes - Recipes
One of the best things about living in New England is the ready availability of bluefish. A cold-water Atlantic predator fish, they are a common sport and food fish here and are especially popular along the Connecticut coastline during the annual run that goes from mid-July through August.
Blues have dark and somewhat purple-bluish flesh which is oily and tends to be on the "fishy" side, similar to mackerel. If it's handled properly - iced immediately after catching, and kept cold - the flavor is no stronger than other oily fish like salmon or swordfish. People who prefer very mild white fish often don't care much for blue, however.
Personally, I love bluefish. It's great baked or grilled or to add a richer flavor to a fish chowder, and I also like cutting fillets into small bites and making "bluefish nuggets." But most of all, I love it smoked.
Smoking bluefish isn't complicated, but it does take some time. The process is similar to making homemade bacon with the biggest difference (besides the brine itself) being that the fish doesn't have to sit in a cure for a week.
Start by making a brine. You can make as much as you'll need to completely cover the fish - I usually make it by the quart:
1 quart water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup kosher or pickling salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 or 4 bay leaves, crushed
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
Combine the water and soy sauce. Add the salt and sugar and stir or shake to dissolve completely. Pour over the bluefish to cover in a shallow pan and add the bay leaves, mustard seed, and peppercorns. Cover and refrigerate while brining - a minimum of four hours.
Brining the bluefish is important. It adds to and enhances the flavor, of course, but it also helps the fish to retain moisture during the smoking process. You should leave the fish in the brine for at least four hours, but it's okay to let it go longer (even a couple of days if you're not going to get to it right away - the brine is a great preservative also.) Just remember that the longer you leave it in the brine, the saltier it may be.
Getting ready for the smoker:
Smoke doesn't like to stick to wet surfaces, and the heat of the smoker can drive moisture out of the fish. And so, the next step is as important as the brine. When you take the fish out of the brine, place the fillets on a metal rack set above a few layers of newspapers. Allow the fish to dry for several hours, until the surface of the fish is dry and feels a bit tacky to the touch. It will take at least three hours, but if it's a damp day it can take five hours or more. If you're squeamish about leaving the fish out that long, make room in the refrigerator for the racks and dry them in there.
That dry, sticky surface is called a "pellicle," and it is formed by proteins on the surface of the fish as they are exposed to air. The pellicle will give the smoke a good surface to adhere to and protect the fish from giving up too much moisture while it's in your smoker.
When the fish is dry, transfer it to the racks of your smoker. Bring the temperature of the smoker up to about 200 F for the first hour of smoking, then drop it to 150 F for another two hours or so.
At the end of that time, average-sized fillets will be done - moist but firm, flaky, and dry, perfect for snacking or using as an ingredient in a dip or paté.
Larger, thicker fillets may need more time. Just extend the time at 150 F for as long as needed to get the firm texture you're looking for.
The delicious finished product will look something like this - a rich chestnut brown color, slightly darker around the edges, tender and moist but firm enough to pick up without falling totally apart. The flavor will be amazing: one of my friends described it as "fish bacon."
Bluefish has a strong flavor, so choose your smoking wood accordingly. You may want to go with an assertive smoke like mesquite, hickory, or even walnut or cherry to hold up to the taste of the fish rather than choosing a mild wood like maple or apple.
When and Where to Buy Bluefish
Because bluefish don&rsquot freeze well, you can only find them when they&rsquore fresh and in season which is from about June to early Fall on the east coast. The best place to find them is at a fish market that specializes in locally caught fish. Generally speaking, supermarket fish departments are unlikely to carry bluefish. However, with the demand for more local and sustainable seafood, it is possible that some supermarket fish counters will stock them. I&rsquove noticed my local supermarket attempting to broaden their local seafood choices in recent years. That&rsquos a VERY good thing.
I subbed lime thyme, Mexican tarragon, fresh oregano, fresh French thyme, parsley flowers, and finely chopped green onion tops because I didn't have dill (and I had all the others things fresh). It is amazing. I did it in a toaster oven and the smaller space made more juice, which would have been great on some rice or quinoa.
A quick and easy way to prepare bluefish. I followed the recipe closely and the results were very good. I had to use dried instead of fresh dill and I omitted most of the salt. A welcome change from mustard based sauce. This recipe would work well with any oily fish.
I usually tent my fish with some oil based spread to retain moisture in the fish, whatever it is, and either bake it or grill it (wrapped in foil in either case). I also love strong fishes, and tomatoes as well as the other ingredients. This was my first bluefish broil and even with the chives played by caramelized Vidalia onion, the outcome was delicious and nice twist from my usual go-to dressing of horseradish and spicy brown mustard (which we had the prior night with king salmon). For those looking for a kick, I think either or both of those ingredients can be used in the context of the instant recipe.
I made this recipe in the heart of winter and was surprised at how good it was. I thought the prescribed cooking time would be too long I hate overcooked fish but found that it did indeed take about 11 minutes under the broiler look, feel and ultimately, taste right. I used tarragon, like a number of others, shallots instead of chives and added Dijon mustard and lime juice in lieu of lemon. It was an enjoyable and easy way to add some zest to a simple broil.
Great simple recipe that you can get right the first time you make it. Served it with grilled corn on the cob. the smoky crunch was amazing with the soft creamy fish. Paired this fab easy meal with a Picpoul de Pinet wine from Languedoc. Amazing
My partner and I used fresh Spanish mackerel fillets, bought that morning from our local farmers market. If you've ever eaten or cooked with mackerel, you know that it is best used that day. We substituted French gray shallots for chives. And we used 3/4-inch-thick slices of tomato that the recipe online states, although the original magazine recipe calls for 1/8-in-thick slices. The thick skin of the mackerel melts right into the flesh, making it creamy and unctuous. This is our new favorite mackerel dish. We served it with sides of Roasted Carrots (Gourmet Dec. 2008) and Mashed Cranberry Beans with olive oil lemon juice, dried parsley, and garlic. They all paired beautifully with our Tarragon Sour (3 ounces tarragon-infused vodka, 1/4 ounce lemon juice, 1/4 ounce lime juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, shake in ice and serve in chilled cocktail glass (serves 1 or 2)). www.CocktailBuzz.com
OOOH SOOO GOOOD. This is so light and mild, it could be used on any fish.
We used mackerel and the result was excellent. I used about half as much mayo and was more liberal with the quantity of herbs. Keeper!
Added a tablespoon of dijon mustard and a bit of tarragon, subbed shallots for chives. Success.
I've never had bluefish before, so it's difficult to tell if I didn't like the receipe or if I'm just not fond of the fish. The result tasted a bit like the Tuna Helper my mom used to make--a salty/mayonaissy concotion with little texture. The chives were great, and, were I to try the treatment on another type of fish, I might increase the herb portions.
We were lucky enough to have fresh Cape Cod bluefish, a favorite of mine. I added some dijon mustard to the sauce which gave it just the kick I think it needed. With beautiful, ripe garden tomatoes, it made a lovely meal.
I made this using a gas grill rather than the broiler in order not to heat up the kitchen in July. The result was just as good as the other reviewers say. I put the fish skin- side down on foil, and brought the sides of the foil up to contain the sauce and juices but did NOT tent fully. I cooked on a medium-high flame with the grill lid closed, registering about 550 degrees (if one trusts the grill thermometer) for 16-17 minutes. The fish was moist and flavorful, and even cooked evenly from the thick end to the thin. It was a big hit with the entire family, including my teenagers who eat fish but who can be "stand-offish" about new dishes.
Very tasty. Made a bit extra herb mix as I had many small fillets (the big blues aren't in yet). Served with simple grilled squash. Everyone enjoyed it.
Italian Baked Bluefish
Heat oven to 350°. Cut fish fillets into 4 serving pieces. Place in ungreased square baking dish, 8x8x2 inches. Mix remaining ingredients pour over fish. Bake uncovered about 40 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork.
1 Serving: Calories 170 (Calories from Fat 45) Fat 5g (Saturated 1g) Cholesterol 65mg Sodium 310mg Carbohydrate 7g (Dietary Fiber 1g) Protein 25g.
Microwave Directions: Decrease wine to 2 tablespoons. Cut fish fillets into 4 serving pieces. Arrange fish, thickest parts to outside edges, in square microwavable dish, 8x8x2 inches. Mix remaining ingredients pour over fish. Cover loosely and microwave on High 9 to 11 minutes, rotating dish 1/4 turn every 4 minutes, until fish flakes easily with fork.
From "Betty Crocker's Best of Healthy & Hearty Cooking." Text Copyright 1998 General Mills, Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This Italian Baked Bluefish recipe is from the Betty Crocker's Best of Healthy & Hearty Cooking Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.
On a hot, windless, and flat day, the sight of these sharp toothed, manic, pelagic fish slashing at a ball of bait on the surface is heart-stopping. Everyone on the boat starts frantically re-rigging, and the first one to be able to cast their bucktail or spoon into the feeding frenzy comes out of it with a good fight and some excellent, but ephemeral, table fare. We almost never specifically target blues, but when a school comes marauding through our fishing grounds, the gloves come off and we pitch everything we have at them to try to fill the cooler.
Our most memorable bluefish day was a few years back, when we were still getting our feet wet with fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. We launched our tiny boat and headed a mile offshore on a dead calm day to some structure that we thought might hold spadefish. Out of nowhere, a big school of bluefish cruised through, and we quickly re-rigged with bucktails (no leader- we didn’t bring any) and started casting. If you haven’t been in the middle of a blitz, written word will fail to convey the excitement and chaos of it. The fish were everywhere, and the surface of the water boiled with the violence of their feeding activity. We lost more tackle than we’d care to admit, and the bucktails that survived were completely stripped by their sharp teeth- not even the paint was left. At the time, the limit for blues was ten per person, so we pretty quickly filled our cooler. Our friend Cam got bitten AND hooked by the same fish, and just about the whole boat had a sheen from the fish slime, blood and tiny scales that covered everything we touched.
And just like that, it cut off. We had 26 blues in the box quicker than it took me to write this. We kept pitching and pitching, hoping to catch a few more to round out our limit, but they had moved on. The spadefish hanging out on the rocks just a few feet below kept taunting us, but the fun was over and the wind had started to blow out of the west. We pulled anchor and headed to harbor, the tops of the swells just barely breaking over our stern. That night, in camp, we had the most incredible bluefish tacos.
Bluefish gets a bad rap for being fishy, but handled correctly and eaten fresh, they are some of the sweetest, most delicious fish around. They have a higher fat content than some other fish, which is what makes them so tasty, but that fat can also spoil quickly, giving it a fishy taste. Bluefish is best when it’s kept on ice and eaten on the same day. I’ve seen people catching blues and tossing them into an empty bucket on the hot sand and then complain that they don’t like eating them. Don’t be that person- all fish will spoil quickly when treated poorly, but the fattier the fish, the better care should be taken to keep it cold and fresh.
We catch our blues right around the time the water in the shallows of the Chesapeake Bay hits the mid 80s. The water is bathtub warm. You need to get these fish out of the water, dispatched, and iced immediately. We’ve used a pick, a bat and the lid of a cooler to kill bluefish quickly, but our new favorite method is reaching under the gill plate and ripping out the gills. This accomplishes two things- the fish dies quickly, and you’ve bled the meat. We pack the fish with plenty of ice in the cooler, and then, back on shore, keep the fillets on ice as we clean them.
Bluefish is incredible eaten the same day. Fried, broiled, grilled- anything. It’s wonderful. The flesh is delicate in texture and sweet, with a depth and complexity of flavor that I’ve had in few other fish. Fried bluefish tacos, with a little coarse cornmeal in the batter, are a fish camp staple. We recently started experimenting with raw bluefish as well, and the results are surprisingly good. The fillets will hold up for a day or two in the fridge, but lose their sweetness and take on an earthier flavor after the first 24 hours.
With so much good to say about it, bluefish does have one drawback- it does not freeze well. No matter how well you take care of the fish before you fillet it, when thawed, the flesh gets mushy and takes on a stronger smell and flavor. Eat what you can fresh, and if you find yourself coming off a long day on the water with more than you can eat that night, we’ve found the best way to preserve a bluefish bounty is to either can it, with lots of spicy hot sauce, or smoke it and then freeze it.
We’ve long debated posting a recipe for pressure-canned spicy bluefish, but frankly, pressure canning is so incredibly different from the hot water bath canning most people are familiar with, and we don’t want to take the risk of someone using the water bath method and getting sick. But, if you are an avid canner, and know the difference between hot water bath canning and pressure canning, I highly recommend giving it a shot. Use a tested recipe for pressure canned fish, and throw in a dash or two of hot sauce. You can use either fresh or smoked filets.
For the rest of us, there’s smoked bluefish. It makes for a great addition to dips, flaked into hash and omelets, and anywhere else a salty and smoky touch of flavor is needed. As my friend with the bigger boat says, “smoked bluefish is the bacon of the Bay”. When your fish is done smoking, you can freeze it for long-term storage, but I’ll bet it doesn’t last long enough to make it to the freezer.
This is a simple recipe- brine, dry, and then smoke the fish. This recipe makes enough brine for 3-6 fish depending on the size of the fish. We did 8 fillets from fish that were around 5 lbs each.