By Paul Suplee
Few things can be more therapeutic to a chef than cleaning fish. Granted, a week in Costa Rica may indeed be a close second, but you get the idea. No, wait; a week in Costa Rica is a much better option, improved greatly by cleaning some fish that you just caught.
Alright, barely having made my way through a half of a cup of coffee, I’m starting to see things a little more clearly. Sometimes I just have to sound it out, knowing that I look like a maniac as I read to myself. On occasion, some noise will emit from my mouth, but mostly I’m silently sounding out words, my lips forming themselves in silence. I would say that my children look at me as though I am insane, but they are well used to it by now.
Luckily, I am certain or at least hopeful that they do not have the countless thoughts muddling up their thought processes as do I, so I doubt that they do the same thing when they are doing their homework. If they did, I would be a proud father, indeed, but I will not hold my breath.
So back to the task at hand: cleaning fish and utilizing all of those lovely little chunks that happen to be leftover. Seafood is quite expensive now, so it is important to utilize what you can, cooking head-to-tail as much as possible. Stock can be made from the bones of a white fish, and you can take a spoon and scrape the skeleton clean to use in a seafood pate or terrine. Then, as you may have guessed, you have the little chunks; what to do?
Bouillabaisse comes to mind, as do Ciopinno and seafood chowder. You could always smoke the fish chunks if you have enough, so that you can toss them in a little mayonnaise and make a delightful smoked fish salad, but with the pieces being so small, you do stand the chance of over-bringing and having a salty mess on your hands.
Or you can do what I did quite a bit at Reel Inn in 2012, which was turn them into little fish bites. Just imagine a crispy fried chunk of fish, perhaps reminiscent of a box of your favorite freshly fried chicken nuggets that you wash down with a grapefruit crush or a Natty Light. Either way, it makes for a great summer day. Yes, I know we are in the dead of winter, but just play along. Suspension of disbelief will help us all get through the next 70 days.
My boat was purchased from a retired gentleman who used to live in Harbor Island. He frequented the restaurant and was an experienced angler, conveying upon us some cool fish to work with. On more than one occasion, he brought us the coveted Golden Tile, a sweeter and more delicious relative to the Black Tile, the latter of which rolls much closer to the ocean’s surface.
He, like other anglers, were more than happy to let the kitchen crew keep a few bites so that we could sample the recently harvested fish. But, of course, the guests salivated as they waited for the platter of fish bites to show up.
Obviously, you want the fish to be as bone-free as possible so that there are no unpleasant crunches, but otherwise this recipe is seriously as simple as it gets. Bread, fry and serve with a simple chipotle mayonnaise.
Last week, I was lucky enough to buy some Golden Tile and it was an absolute treat. Bringing in more unique fish has been fun for us, and our guests have enjoyed trying bronzini and a few other uncommon seafood items. We’re not getting too crazy; we’re just trying to have fun and maybe broaden a horizon or two.
So, as you work your way through a great deal at the seafood market, or if you are breaking down your own catch, just remember that there is always something that you can do with even the most minute of pieces. After all, these things cost money. On top of that, there is just a level of respect for the animal to ensure that nothing goes to waste.
But, now that I’ve read this again, I think I’m just going to pack my bags and go to Central America. Sounds good to me.
Fried Mahi/Tile Bites
1 pound Chunks of fresh mahi or tile
Oil for frying
1 cup Seafood breader such as House Autry’s
Chipotle Mayonnaise (as needed and recipe follows)
Greens for garnish
- Place breader in a bowl and add the fish chunks
- Lightly toss them, ensuring that they are evenly coated. This is not a battered or breaded product. Rather, this is just dredged or lightly dusted
- Heat the oil to 375°F
- Carefully add the fish bites to the oil in small enough batches to ensure that they don’t crowd and the oil stays hot
- Fry until golden brown and remove to paper towels to drain
- Serve with chipotle mayonnaise
Makes about 3/4 cup
1/2 cup Mayonnaise (preferably Duke’s)
2 tsp. Fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. Paprika
3 tsp. Spicy adobo sauce from a can of chipotles
- Combine all ingredients, thinning with a little water if it is to thick
- Adjust seasonings and refrigerate until ready to serve