Here is part two of Jon Rowley’s fish handling 101. According to Jon, “although local, plentiful and sustainable, bluefish don’t appear on many menus in New England.” Read on to find out why, and how to handle them – and other fish – for maximum flavor.
The flavor, texture and “mouthfeel” of a fish depends on how it is handled on deck the first three hours out of the water. Rarely is there an opportunity to demonstrate how it all works.
When I learned Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish, and I would both be on the program at the Chefs Collaborative Summit in Boston, I proposed we organize a charter fishing field trip out of Boston prior. It would be an opportunity to show chefs the handling-for-best-flavor steps as fish came aboard. An ardent fisherman since childhood, Paul was right on it making arrangements with Neponset Sport Fishing Charters for the 38-foot Blue Moon II, licensed for 6, which meant four open spots in addition to Paul and I. Leigh Belanger, the Chefs Collaborative Program Director, recruited Board members Peter Hoffman, owner of Savoy and Back 40 restaurants in Manhattan, Amy Bodiker, an organic farming consultant from Cleveland, Robin Schempp, owner of Right Stuff in Vermont and Bruce Sherman, chef-owner of North Pond restaurant in Chicago. A great group.
I worked out with skipper Jim Maloney how we wanted to use the opportunity to demonstrate the handling steps from hook to plate to produce the best flavor. We would stun, bleed, dress, rinse and ice pre-rigor. A few days later, the fish would be prepared for the Chefs Collaborative post-conference National Board dinner by Michael Leviton at four-star Lumiere…a good opportunity to see and taste the results.