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
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.