By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
Ah, the White Marlin Open is here. And, for the first time since 2012, I’m not working this ravenous party of anglers, revelers and spectators, but rather fishing. By the time you read this, we will have one more day of throwing in the lines and, with any luck, we will be standing at the scales on Friday. But, we all know that the odds are stacked heavily against every boat out there.
On day one, with 312 boats fishing, only seven qualifying fish were weighed. As the week progresses, we sit amazed as we are every year at the prize money of the top-ranking fish.
But you’re not here to read yet another rundown of the tournament. I know you’re here for the food; I get it. And as delicious as most of the offshore fish can be (tuna, dolphinfish, wahoo and even marlin especially when smoked), one fish stands out for me.
Years ago when I was working at The Reel Inn (2012 to be exact), anglers would bring their catch to us and we would prepare it for them. The usual suspects would show up, but on occasion someone would catch a Golden Tilefish, one of the best and most succulent seafoods, period.
This fish has a very sweet meat and works well with an assortment of cooking methods. But one of my favorites is simply to cut it into small pieces and flash-fry it to give you little crispy chunks that are as tender and moist as can be.
One of the best parts about this type of preparation is that it is wide open for you to serve with a plethora of sauces; think tartar, remoulade (a tad spicier), tomato-caper (Pacific coast of Mexico) or a good New Orleans fashioned tasso-laced sauce. If you’re not familiar with tasso ham, it is a Nawlins ham made from slabs of pork shoulder that are then cured and smoked. Yes, it is as delicious as it sounds, and it only takes a day to make as opposed to seven days or a year for more time-consuming charcuterie.
But, with the smokiness of the tasso and the tart nuances from the fresh summer tomatoes and white wine, this sauce is the perfect accoutrement for the fried tilefish.
If you can’t find tile anywhere (more than likely, you will only be able to get this through local markets or commercial boats), you can use rockfish, mahi or even catfish (the latter would make sense considering the recipe style). But, if you can find tile? Game on! You will definitely thank me for this one.
And, while I wish all of the anglers tight lines and the best of luck, I have to hope that you will see Team Ole School fishing on Hot Spot at the scales.
Fried Tilefish, Tasso-Tomato Sauce
1.5 pound Tilefish filet, cut into one-inch pieces
1/2 cup Cornstarch
1/2 cup Wondra refined flour
2 Tbsp. Paul Prudhomme Redfish Seasoning
3 large eggs
1 cup Buttermilk
2 Tbsp. Finely ground cornmeal
Duck fat, for frying
2 cups Tasso-Tomato sauce (recipe follows)
- Have the sauce ready to go, as the frying of the tilefish won’t take very long at all
- Make sure that the tilefish is pat dry with paper towels and set aside
- Have three pans or dishes set up in a row. In the first pan or dish, sprinkle a little bit of the Wondra
- In the second one, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, salt & pepper to create the wet part of the breading
- In the third pan, combine the cornstarch, Wondra, cornmeal and small amount of redfish seasoning. Be judicious in this process, as you have to balance the seasonings, especially the salt. Since you’re adding it at different points of this recipe, you can definitely overkill it
- When you are all set, simply toss the tilefish bits in the first dish, dredging (dusting) them
- With only a few at a time, transfer them to the wet coating
- Remove and place in third dish to bread the pieces, coating evenly
- Set on paper towels until ready to fry
- Heat the oil to 375F and fry the tilefish in batches to ensure that the oil doesn’t drop too rapidly when you drop the food in
- Cook for about two minutes or until the tilefish is done. Remove to paper towel to drain and serve immediately with the Tasso-Tomato sauce
- Serve with a well-seasoned rice
makes about 2 cups
1 Tbsp. Whole butter
2 Garlic cloves
1/2 Small white onion, finely diced
1/2 cup Diced tasso ham
2 large fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1/2 cup Dry white wine
1 tsp. Fresh oregano, minced
1/2 tsp. Fresh thyme leaves
Salt & Pepper to taste
- Place the butter in the pan and cook until the “foaming subsides,” Graham Kerr-style
- Add the garlic and onion, stirring readily to ensure that the garlic doesn’t burn
- Cook for three minutes and add the ham, cooking until you have a little color on it
- Add the tomatoes and cook for four minutes and add wine
- Cook until the alcohol has burned off (technically it never all will, but with wine it will be nominal after a few minutes)
- Add the herbs and adjust to your taste with salt & pepper