Bluefish and potatoes
Bluefish is not a dish for the wary. If your idea of piscine perfection involves something delicate like sole or scrod, this dark, meaty fish - so oily that a fish-loving friend once observed that it needs only a wick to serve as a candle - might be too much for you.
But if you like rich, robust flavors in food as in wine, this migratory saltwater fish - a cousin of the pompano - is well worth getting to know. Native to continental shelf waters in all the world's temperate regions, it's found along the U.S. and Canadian coast from Nova Scotia to Texas. Bluefish is also fished commercially in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Indian Ocean ... and turns up in the local cuisines of all those places.
It's a bountiful source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, making a dinner of bluefish with a touch of olive oil and a glass of red wine about as nice a treat as you can give your palate and your cardiovascular system ... and yes, that rich and oily bluefish meat will work nicely with a lighter-style red.
I like bluefish best in Italian-style preparations with plenty of olive oil and garlic. Today's recipe - a simplified, reduced-calorie variation of a recipe in Marcella Hazan's original "More Classic Italian Cooking" - is a long-time favorite. Thin-sliced potatoes are drizzled with olive oil and lots of minced garlic, quickly browned in a very hot oven, then finished with a thick bluefish fillet on top and more oil and garlic. The combination of flavors and textures makes this one a winner, and an outstanding match with a crisp red wine.INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
Bluefish fillet, about 12 ounces (350g)
1. Preheat oven to 450F (225C).
2. Mince the garlic fine, and put it in a small bowl with the olive oil.
3. Peel the potatoes and cut them into thin slices, no thicker than 1/8 inch (0.3 cm). Rinse the slices, drain and pat them fairly dry with paper towels or a dish towel. Put the potato slices in a mixing bowl and pour in about three-fourths of the oil and garlic mixture plus salt and pepper to taste, gently turning the potatoes with your hands until every slice is coated with oil. Spread them evenly in an ovenproof pan (I used a flat 10 1/2 by 7-inch metal pan with a nonstick surface, but any metal or ovenproof glass pan of similar size, rectangular, oval or round, will do). Put the potatoes in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, using a spatula to turn them once or twice.
4. When the potatoes are about halfway done and starting to show crusty brown spots, put the bluefish fillet on top, skin-side down. Coat the top side of the fish with the remaining oil and garlic, add a little more salt and pepper, and return to the oven for 15 minutes longer. Serve with a green vegetable (fresh spinach was perfect) or salad.
OPTION: Although Hazan's original recipe called for bluefish, if you don't like it or can't find it, this preparation should work well with other firm, oily fish, such as mackerel or salmon.
WINE MATCH: As I mentioned above, this is a fish-with-red-wine combination that works. Just about any acidic, non-tannic red will do, from Beaujolais to lighter-style Pinot Noir, or Italian reds from fruitier Barberas to simple Chianti to Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. I went with something a little more off the beaten path, a light, minerally red wine from the Loire, Puzelet 2000 "La Tesniere," made from the historic but now rather obscure Pineau d'Aunis grape, which I'll feature in a coming edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor.
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