The World’s Best Bluefish Recipe

Note: This column oiginally appeared in the July 2007 issue of On The Water magazine. The recipe was included in Dave “Pops” Masch’s cookbook, Cooking The Catch

All “Blues” Are Not Sad

High summer is here and so are all the fish that come with it, so let us catch some and cook them properly.

It is difficult to write column after column without getting both repetitive and boring for the reader, to say nothing of boring for me, but why should you care about my boredom?

Well, I know one creature that is never boring, either to catch or to eat, and that’s the much-maligned bluefish. Respected by all as a magnificent fighter, it’s a dangerous fish to handle, and when properly dealt with, delicious to eat. The bluefish is disliked by many for being oily or “fishy-tasting” and even repellent when cooked. These negative reactions are always about fish that were poorly handled when caught. Fishermen often catch blues quickly and in large numbers when the beasts are surface feeding, and in the excitement of the moment, the fish are thrown to the deck or put in boxes and forgotten until the commotion of the blitz is over, the tangled lines are straightened out and the gear is overhauled. Then the fishermen must talk over the action before finally getting to the now-dead fish cooking in the boxes or festering in the sun. Some people ignore this fish until they reach the dock, where they unload the spoiled fish to generously give it to their friends and neighbors, who soon learn to dislike the noble fish.

Every summer I write to exhort my readers to bleed each bluefish as it comes aboard. This is simply, though dangerously, accomplished by making an incision just behind the point where the gill covers come together on the underside of the fish. Do this carefully, for the sharp teeth and strong jaws and pugnacity of a bluefish will make short work of the flesh on a finger or thumb! I speak from experience. Large blues over 6 pounds should be dispatched with a “priest” or club of some sort applied vigorously to the top of the head before you make the bleeding incision. (The name “priest” for the chosen bludgeon is apt, for it applies the “last rites” to the fish.) I keep a bucket half-filled with water into which I put the fish after cutting its throat, to keep most of the blood off of the boat. As soon as it is bled out, I put the fish on ice or in a wet burlap sack, if ice is not available. Evaporation from the wet sack will keep the fish cool for as long as the sack remains damp. I then gut the fish as soon as possible, usually while still at sea.

If you follow my instructions, you will have a fine, generous gift for friends and neighbors, who will no longer hide when they see you coming with “fresh” fish. In fact, they will greet you with open arms and thank you profusely, especially if you convince them to prepare the bounty you have provided in the following manner, using what I call the world’s best bluefish recipe.

This recipe is not my own but came from Marcella Hazan’s More Classic Italian Cooking, published by Knopf in 1978. I have written of the recipe almost annually for the past eight years because I think it is important for the reputation of the bluefish as a culinary joy, and for you and your reputation as a culinary treasure to your friends and family. It is also easily prepared. What more could you ask for in a recipe?

Baked Bluefish with Potatoes, Genoese Style (for 6)
“The World’s Best Bluefish Recipe”

2 bluefish fillets (skin on, about 1 lb. each)
1½ pounds boiling potatoes
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel and slice the potatoes thinly (about ⅛-inch thick). Mix the potatoes with half the garlic, half the parsley, half the olive oil and a liberal amount of salt and pepper in a 16×10-inch casserole dish, preferably enameled cast iron. Arrange the potatoes evenly over the bottom and sides of the dish, place it in the upper third of the preheated oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the dish and place the fillets, skin side down, on the potatoes. Mix the remaining olive oil, garlic and parsley and pour over the fillets. Salt and pepper liberally and return the casserole to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven, and using a spoon, baste the fish and exposed potatoes with some of the oil in dish. Loosen the browned potatoes from the sides of the dish and replace with unbrowned potatoes from the dish bottom. Bake 5 minutes more.

Serve piping hot directly from the casserole dish, scraping up browned potatoes stuck to the pan. Marcella says, “These are the most delectable bits, so save them for yourself or for someone you like nearly as well.”

I sometimes use two baking dishes and twice as many potatoes with the same amount of fish to provide more of these “delectable bits.” My family has almost come to blows over these browned potatoes. Does it matter which is tastier, the potatoes or the fish? Who cares? Go for it! Fame and glory or even appreciation comes seldom enough for the home cook.

This simple recipe is not only outstanding, but versatile; you can cook any firm-fleshed fish in this way. It’s great with swordfish (if you don’t dry it out), salmon, mackerel, and very good with striped bass; you almost cannot go wrong. The only dangers are not precooking the potatoes long enough or that most serious of culinary transgressions, overcooking the seafood. Try it with shrimp, scallops or both; or with squid, precooked octopus or a mélange of the whole works. You will not be sorry and your renown will grow. I promise!

Do you enjoy eating bluefish?

  1. C

    Bled and gutted immediately, small/medium bluefish sashimi is not only tolerable, it’s delicious. The oiliness of the flesh makes it better raw on day 1 than many other local fish. Black seabass or striper as examples need a day or two to soften up before eating sashimi, but bluefish eaten same day of catch has the perfect consistency. Not too soft, not too firm. And not at all ‘fishy’ like it’s reputation. Was not a believer until I tried it.

    Reply
    • Diana Frazier

      I love blue fish learned right away to take the head off before the oil goes through the body I also learned you’re probably one of the smartest fish and can see you on the boat out of the water and I’d be more worried about Bluefish coming by in an eating frenzy than a shark when they’re eating and in a frenzy they will eat anything in the away like piranhas and I can always smell the fish spit on the water it’s like watermelon when they’re on their way I caught one of the biggest one offshore in North Heights Orleans Massachusetts they got stuck in the cove in a frenzy eating everything I took out a fishing rod and put a hunk of chicken meat on it cuz I had no bait wasn’t planning on fishing and got 27 lb of offshore it took a while to get in because he was trying to snap the line and you had to keep it tight but I pulled it in and it was as long as I most my whole body then I love blue fish and it’s very good for you

      Reply
    • Bruce

      Excelllent!! I’ve never tried it sashimi but now I can’t wait.
      Thanks

      Reply
  2. John Patterson

    Excellent advice bleeding out the fish. Another tip when you are ready to freeze the fillet cut out blood line( this is the real dark area of fillet) ,soak or rinse in salt water (this helps any bacteria growth that has started) rinse off with clean water, than freeze in milk. When you thaw out there is no taste of the milk. I do this and have blue fish that was over 1 yr old and still ok. The milk helps keep it from getting freeze burn.

    Reply
  3. Ron white

    I enjoy bluefish many different ways. This recipe that you shared here will be tried. Thank you

    Reply
  4. Joe Gomes

    Well bled and iced promptly makes bluefish you can serve proudly. A 5 pounder, filleted and skin on. Spray oil a suitable sized piece of foil, place filet, skin down on foil and brush with mayo. Then salt & pepper and maybe some Cajun spice? To your own taste. Grill with cover down til filet flakes with fork 5-10 minutes serve whole & maybe some lemon to squeeze. Mmmm.

    Reply
  5. Bill

    Bleed it into a bucket, when it’s dead, fillet it off the rack, skin it, cut out the blood line and put the fillets and skins on ice. After the blitz is over, use the skins cut in strips to catch some fluke.

    As for recipe, I prefer white wine, lemon, and dill. It adds bright fruity and green bitter notes to the rich, oily fish.

    Reply
  6. Mike McCormick

    Cutting out blood lines also important, fillet skin down on foil, mayo and Dijon mustard, herb de provance, thrown grill, my kid’s favorite fish

    Reply
  7. skip

    I love Blue Fish and so does the family.
    BUT, here is how we do it!
    Fillet the fish asap! Skin the fillets, and remove all the blood line/dark meat.
    SOAK the fillets in a ziplock bag of whole milk overnight in the fridge.

    Cook them the next day!

    When you are ready to cook…
    let most of the milk run off, shake the fillets in a brown paper bag with flour, salt and pepper, and Italian seasoning.

    Beat up a couple of eggs, a little milk, and salt and pepper, with whatever seasoning you like. (we use Basil, and more Italian seasoning)
    Dunk the fillets (one at a time) in the beaten egg mix.

    Go straight from the egg mix into a mixture of 1/2 Italian bread crumbs and half Panko. (or whatever YOU like!) Liberally coat both sides…

    Semi deep/fry the fillets in a large non stick pan with half butter, half olive oil
    til they are golden brown. flip and do the other side. HOT oil is best! …it keeps the coating crispy and not “oily”.

    Put the fillets on a plate lined with paper towels to cool while you cook the next batch!

    I usually cook all of what we catch, and put the leftovers in the fridge for lunch and/or dinner the next day. It’s just as good the next day cold!

    Reply
  8. John Davis

    Bleeding bluefish immediately is the key to GREAT bluefish eating.
    This recipe looks very good & I’ll definitely try it.
    My go to recipe for blues is from the Legal Seafood Cookbook.
    The fish is coated with Dijon Mustard, minced apple and a few other things. Well worth getting the book just for that recipe alone.

    Reply
  9. Walleye

    Heat up a cast iron skillet seasoned with garlic butter, put your skinned blue fish fillets in the skillet, and flip after two minutes. When the fillets are golden brown, throw them out the window! and eat the cast iron skillet! It will taste better! Tight lines!

    Reply
  10. Shaun

    We dont usually get big blues here in Florida but a run came through in March. Caught 6 while trolling in 250 to 400 ft. I smoked them and made my Cajun fish dip. Very good as they are less oily than kingfish.

    Reply
  11. Victoria

    I just don’t understand why people don’t like bluefish.
    I think they’re victims of helicopter mothers who fed them “chicken nuggets” growing up, rather than saying, “This is what’s on the menu tonight”, try it, you’ll like it”.
    “Come back tomorrow if you prefer”.

    Reply
  12. Michael Ruggelo

    I like to wrap bluefish filets in tinfoil with onions and lemon slices. Poke holes in it and grille it on high until the oil burns off….I love bluefish…..had smoked bluefish pate on the Vinyard…..couldn’t stop eating it.

    Reply

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