Don’t Fear the Bluefish, Part Deux

When I first started blogging, I wrote a post about bluefish.  In it, I claimed that I knew the ultimate way to cook bluefish: to have Jim do it.  He let me in on his crisped-skin secret (scraping your knife against the skin to squeegee off any moisture before you cook) and it does indeed make a tasty bluefish, or any fish for that matter.  We do this crispy-skin method for fish about twice a week actually, with salmon mostly now, and it always gets great results.

But despite how good that method is, I’m telling you today: I’ve found a better way to cook bluefish, with the help of Rick Moonen of Fish Without a Doubt, who advised me on the right pan (cast-iron), the right cooking method (broiling).  The rest of the recipe came from my windowsill herb box.  I used basil, parsley, with a few cloves of garlic and the zest of a lemon, to make an herb butter.

If  you’ve never made an herb butter—with good butter and fresh herbs—then you are in for a treat.  I use them all the time, with different herbs for different proteins: sage or tarragon for chicken, rosemary or thyme for steak, dill or parsley for fish, or I just use whatever tickles my fancy (or needs to be picked from the windowsill).  I’ve never been disappointed with an herb butter and, after you start using them, you can’t stop.  I tried using an olive oil, salt, and pepper rub on a chicken dish that I’d done before with a sage-lemon butter, and oh-man was that disappointing. So, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Because once you try bluefish with herb butter, you’ll regret having it any other way.  Succulent and fresh, this recipe will turn any bluefish-hater around.  The bits of garlic in the butter get slightly burnt and give you that crackle-in-your-teeth contrast to the soft, buttery fish.  Both the basil and the parsley stand out of their own, while working well together—the parsley woody and green, the basil sweet.

To cook it, you put a cast iron pan in the oven so it sits right under the broiler, and broil the empty pan for about 15-20 minutes, so that it gets smokin’ hot.  Then you take the pan out (with good oven mitts!) and add a dollop of the herb butter.  Place the bluefish into the pan, skin side down—it will immediately cinch up and contract—and then place a few spoonfuls of the herb butter on top of the fish. (It may look like a lot of butter in the picture—and it is, about 2 ½ tablespoons.  Not all gets onto your plate but it helps to keep the fish moist when cooking.  And if you’re really worried about it, bathing suit season and all, eat a smaller piece of fish.)  Place the pan back under the broiler and broil for 3 minutes, then baste the fish by spooning the butter over it before putting it back into the oven to broil for another 2-4 minutes, until the fish is white throughout the fillet, yet still very moist.

To serve, put a piece of the fillet on a plate and drizzle some of the browned herb butter over it.  Green beans quickly cooked then tossed with olive oil and lemon are the perfect accompaniment.  Or some new potatoes on the side, little sponges to sop up the juices.  Whatever you eat it with, I’m sure you’ll love it.  Don’t fear the bluefish… just eat it.

Broiled Bluefish with Basil-Parsley Butter

serves 2

for the butter

  • 3 tablespoons good butter, softened
  • small handful basil
  • smaller handful parsley
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 (16-ounce) piece bluefish, skin on

Put butter in a small bowl, softening in the microwave for 5 seconds if needed.  On a cutting board, chop your herbs, garlic, and zest together.  Add the herb mixture and salt to butter and mash up to combine.  Season with black pepper

Put the oven on broil and place a cast-iron skillet in the uppermost shelf, or right under the broiler.  Let the cast-iron pan heat for 15-20 minutes, while the herb butter’s flavors are melding.

Season your bluefish with salt and pepper.  When skillet is smoking hot, take it out of the oven with good oven mitts and transfer to cutting board.  Add a spoonful of herb butter to bottom of skillet then place bluefish skin side down in skillet.  Transfer back to the oven and broil for 3 minutes.  Remove skillet and baste fish with butter.  Transfer back to oven and broil for another 2-4 minutes, or until bluefish is cooked through but still moist.

Serve bluefish with some butter drizzled on top and as much of the crispy herbs and garlic that you can pick up.  Goes particularly well with lemony green beans.

32 thoughts on “Don’t Fear the Bluefish, Part Deux”

    1. Broil it with butter and onion on top until crispy… flambe with gin to burn off any excess oil… it’s good to go.

  1. My 1st taste of bluefish was during a family vacation to Cape Cod….a meaty fish but light & flaky all the while. Bluefish is underated…nice post.

    1. The first question I’ve asked any man I dated is: “how do you cook fish?” 😉

      Ok, fine, but only if that means we’ll all move to NYC and eat out at Batali restaurants at least once a week.

  2. This looks great. I don’t think I’ve seen blue fish over in these parts, but will keep my eyes open. How is the wedding planning coming? It’s quite a process, isn’t it??!!!

  3. Bluefish used to be one of my favorites, but I literally never see it any more–not on menus, not in the fish store. Oh well….will try this on another fish, less blue.

    1. We get it a lot in Jersey, though it’s not a sustainable fish everywhere (we usually get to buy it from a hook and line fisherman, which is sustainable). You could try any other meaty white fish.

  4. I’ve never had bluefish, but would love to try it! I am very intrigued by the herb butter in the book though and was thinking about it a lot right after I flipped through it. It’s so easy to do and I bet it would be marvelous. Love so many of the sauces too. Thanks for giving another thumbs up on his stuff. I really need to get comfortable with the methods.

  5. I had bluefish for the first time on Cape Cod too. It was great, but nobody got very much because almost the entire thing got eaten by an enormous poodle named Louis. And if Louis’ owner is reading this: Sure it’s thirty-six years ago, Paula and sure we still remember.

    I love the idea of scraping the skin. Well done Jim.

    My wife does salmon with Béarnaise sauce (instead of Hollandaise, I guess), but she just loves that stuff; she’d probably eat it on cereal.

    1. You can never forget a thing like that… never.

      Salmon with bearnaise—that totally defeats the purpose of being “healthy” eating fish (I can turn a blind eye all the butter we use, but bearnaise, I dunno.)

      Jim, I think we need to do a post on the details of that crispy-skinned technique.

  6. The title made “Don’t Fear The Reaper” pop into my head…I think seeing the “Don’t Fear” then “Blue” triggered it. And yum!

    1. Thanks for asking, Hillary.

      Taken from Wikipedia:
      Bluefish are migratory marine fish, found worldwide in tropic and temperate seas, except for the eastern shores of the Pacific. On the western side of the Atlantic, their range is from Argentina to Nova Scotia. They are found off Africa, and in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Bluefish are generally found in bays and sandy bottomed near-shore waters. Migrating fish may be encountered in as much as 200 foot (60 m) depths. Depending on conditions such as water temperature and atmospheric pressure, bluefish may be found nearly anywhere in the water column, from just above the bottom to just below the surface.

      Bluefish are found off Florida in the winter months. By April, they have disappeared, heading north. By June, they may be found off Massachusetts; in years of high abundance, stragglers may be found as far north as Nova Scotia. By October, they leave New England waters, heading south. They are also present in the Gulf of Mexico throughout the year.

  7. I saw something on tv yesterday about how the Japanese are overfishing (blue-tailed?) tuna so much it will probably die out next year, but because it was on television I wasn’t really paying attention, so I can’t give you any more detail.

  8. Damn. I miss blues. I am a Jersey Boy living in Calfornia and that is one fish that NEVER shows up here. It is one of the the best BBQ and grilling fish there is, and I do that broiling trick, too. Just don’t fry bluefish; it gets greasy (and you know I pronounce that word “gree-zee”).

    If you get your hands on some more, make a tomato sauce with some lemon or vinegar to go with it; the acid goes real well with and oily blue. Works great with mackerel, too, which ought to be running your way right now. Check the boats at Pt. Pleasant or Barnegat…

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