When it comes to eating fish, the phrase "different strokes for different folks" best sums up people's preferences. It is all up to the taste buds as to what fish floats your boat. Just last week I received an email from a woman who had read my column about the mysterious disappearance of saltwater catfish and commented that the same thing had occurred off the coast of Connecticut to her favorite eating fish, the bluefish.
Number one on my list of favorites has to be wahoo. Broiled, grilled or sashimi style, wahoo is light, flaky and just thinking about eating one of these speedsters gets my salivary glands running like Niagara Falls.
My preferred style of cooking wahoo is to lightly baste the fillets with butter, then liberally sprinkle both sides with Chef Paul Prudhomme's Blackened Seasoning and a touch of paprika before broiling it on low. Here is what makes this meal unbelievable: I cook up a pot of yellow saffron rice and some black beans, and when the fish is ready, I nestle it on a bed of the rice, ladle on some black beans and top it all with a dollop of sour cream.
Lordy, it is so good I swear you'll swallow your tongue!
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My second favorite eating fish has to be a triggerfish. And while I am on the subject, I'll tell you that right now I am knee deep in triggerfish fillets. This past Thursday my fishing buddies Don McCarthy and Will Thompson, along with retired New York City firefighter Al Johnson, hopped aboard the Manatee Mac and absolutely crushed the triggerfish -- and I am talking BIG triggers.
You might not remember but last Thursday was one of the hottest days we have had in quite some time. Not only was it scalding hot, there wasn't even a hint of a breeze, so when we pulled back the throttles to fish, it instantly became evident that we were going to have to work fast to fill the fish box or shrivel up from the heat and blow away. It was that hot.
Thankfully, the fish cooperated, and we had a field day catching big triggers, big black seabass, grouper and even a cubera snapper (very rare around here). It is not often that this crew ever gives up, but the heat was so oppressive we were back to the dock by 3 p.m. It took us another two hours to clean all those fish. If you have ever cleaned a triggerfish, then you know they are probably one of the hardest fish to clean because their skin is like super tough leather. But once you make it through that thick hide of theirs, the meat is as sweet and tender as it gets. Grilled and made into fish tacos, it just doesn't get any better.
Rounding out my list of favorites has to be flounder. Mild-flavored, flounder were put on this Earth to be rolled in batter and thrown into a Fry Daddy. My wife, Karen, and I eat a ton of flounder, and we just never get tired of it. I hit them hard in the fall, when the big roe flounder start making their move. Not only are they mighty fine table fare, they are a blast to catch. A big flounder on the end of your line is nerve-racking. Their bite is unmistakable -- a single "thump" and then the game begins. But you can't haul back on a flounder; you have to let them eat. I have waited up to five minutes for a big flattie to finish swallowing the bait and start moving away. That is when you get him. And if you don't have a landing net, you'll never, ever get that fish in the boat -- it's like trying to hold on to a greased pig.
Preparing fish for cooking is an art. I hate to tell you this, but most every fish you buy in a supermarket or fish market is at least a week old. That doesn't mean they don't taste good, but compared to a fish that is less than a day old, there is absolutely no comparison. I can't tell you how many times I have turned non-fish eaters into enthusiastic fish eaters just by serving them fish I have just caught.
By the time you read this column I'll have eaten triggerfish every day since our trip offshore and I can tell you this: It's mmm-mmm good!