I’d heard tell of blackfish being an excellent eating fish, of superb but mild flavor. So, when I saw it being offered for sale at my favorite roadside fish stand, I had to buy a pound of fillet. Try (nearly) everything once, I often say! (This you can probably guess from a few others of my posts….) Despite the price… It is mostly a fish line-caught by sportsmen rather than for the commercial market, and these fish live along the northern Atlantic seaboard, down to the Carolinas.
It’s a wild-caught fish, sometimes known as tautog (its Narragansett Native American name), and while the flesh is white, the skin is mostly black. I found its taste to be mild but not remotely bland. Much better than cod, in my opinion, although you can cook it in recipes that you’d use cod in. It has a firm texture which flakes into large flakes when cut. If I had to lay down a comparison, if you like sea or black bass or red snapper, you’ll probably enjoy this.
For more information on the tautog/blackfish check out the New York’s Seafood Council website: http://www.nyseafood.org/ordereze/Content/PageDetails.aspx?PageID=45. For completists out there, the scientific name of this fish is Tautoga onitis, and it is a type of fish known as a wrasse.
I cut the fish in half, pan fried the more slender half, and baked the other half. On purpose, I kept the seasonings minimal, so as to understand and appreciate the flavor of this unique species better. Since I turned out to be more impressed by pan-fried, I’ve kept this recipe posted here this way, without the other alternative. Which was serviceable, but I really recommend pan-fried! (If I find this fish again, I WILL try charcoal grilled, with a little Jamaican seasonings! — which is how my blackfish-loving friend ate it.)
Pan Fried Blackfish
* 1/3 – 1/2 pound blackfish fillet (per person)
* teaspoon cooking oil (I used avocado oil, which is mild)
* 2 lime slices
* Cracked lemon pepper to taste
Heat up your skillet (I used my cast iron skillet) to medium/medium low, add the oil. Allow the oil time to heat up.
Add your fish fillet, skin down. Squeeze lime juice over the exposed side, and add some cracked pepper.
Cook for about four minutes per side (more if the fish is thicker than 3/4 inch), adding the rest of the lime and pepper to the skin side when you flip it. (On wild-caught cold-water ocean-going fish I tend to eat the skin, especially if I get the chance to make it cook up crispy.) Flip back onto the skin side for a last minute, and plate.
Let it rest for 4-5 minutes while you take photos, cut up apples, or whatever else you want for a simple quick side…