Unless I make a special trip to an up-market store like Kings or Whole Foods, it is almost impossible to find a fresh and wild-caught fish fillet or cluster of shrimp as it is to find a broad range of international pantry supplies under one roof. After peering too many times through the glass case at the feeble, farm-raised offerings splayed on ice, I now save myself five minutes with a quick glance down into the self-serve case housing pre-wrapped tidbits, most of which aren’t worth a second glance, either. On the rare occasion, I have found Canadian flounder and tender, plump scallops that haven’t been previously frozen and treated with that bitter chemical which renders them completely inedible. It was a rarer occasion still to spy something I haven’t seen in a good ten years.
At first I thought it was just old fillet, left for very dead by clerks who hadn’t gotten around to rotating out the stock. But as I leaned into the case, there was something faintly familiar about the gray-blue flesh and the general shape and size of the fillet. My eyes began to pop with wonder and memory. It was bluefish, and I was in bliss. I prepared them exactly the same way as I did years ago, when a colleague brought me back an icy-cold bucket of them from a fishing expedition off Long Island. I ate several wonderful meals off that catch. I hope I don’t have to wait another ten years to have these tender, mild and healthy fish again. I am not so sure, though; I made a special point to stop at the cold case in the market yesterday, but there were none to be had.
4 small bluefish fillets, no more than 8 inches long. (Mature, larger fish are very oily and unappealing.)
4 tablespoons butter or oil
4 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (I used a Paul Prudhomme blend)
Dredge fish fillets in flour. In a large skillet heat butter/oil with spices until sizzling. Add fillets skin side UP. Cook over low-medium heat for 7 minutes. Turn and cook another 3 minutes. Turn again, remove from pan, and serve immediately.
½ pound white button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons butter or oil
2 tablespoons dark molasses
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Heat butter in skillet (cast iron preferred) then add mushrooms, cooking over low heat until they have shrunken to half their size. Turn heat up to medium, add Worcestershire Sauce, then molasses. Stir and turn mushrooms as they start to scorch and caramelize, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Serves 2.
I served these dishes with plain brown rice.