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Smoked Bluefish

Smoked Bluefish
  

We took a couple of rods and a few beers out on an absolutely fabulous September afternoon to check up on the bluefish activity, which is usually pretty good this time of year, and came back in a few hours with about 30 pounds of fish. We also released about that much.

I've become spoiled by living within range of the bluefish run for so many years, so my position on bluefish is that it's great if you cook it within a few hours of catching; fresh-tasting, flavorful, meaty. I usually grill it whole or fillet it and simmer the meat in a mixture of saké, murin (Japanese sweet cooking wine), soy sauce and some shredded ginger.  Since they swim in feeding schools, it's a common enough occurance for a fisherman to have a lot of bluefish in a hurry, so there are whole books of what to do with bluefish...a popular one is subtitled "101 Ways to Get Rid of Bluefish." (For those unacquainted with the bluefish, it's a powerful cold water Atlantic predator fish, quite plentiful, and it has dark, oily flesh, a lot like mackerel. For more information - and more recipes - see Blues, John Hersey's meditation about a summer spent fishing for blues off Martha's Vineyard.)

If I can't cook it within a few hours I just fire up the smoker, and that's what I did last week, since we had unchangable dinner plans the day we caught all those fish. There are lots of uses for smoked bluefish, some of which I'll be posting here in the next few days, but my favorite way to serve it is just as it comes from the smoker, a nice honey brown side of fish. I usually put out a few bland crackers - saltines will do - or little toasts if I'm being fancy, and a sauce made of sour cream, lemon juice, horseradish and minced dill (proportions to taste).

Smoked Bluefish

This is a three-step process (brine, dry, smoke) which takes all day, so you have to start early!

4 sides (fillets) of average-sized bluefish (5 - 7 lb of fillets).
2 qts water
3/4 C kosher salt
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C soy sauce
2 bay leaves
zest of 1 lemon
2 sprigs fresh dill, chopped

Mix brine well in a glass, porcelain or plastic container large enough to hold the fish meat and the brine. You have to stir for about 10 minutes to dissolve the salt and sugar completely. Warming the water accelerates the dissolving time but the water must be cool before putting the fish in, so I usually make the brine with warm water in the evening and then refrigerate it overnight. That way, when I get up to get started in the morning I just have to slip the fish into the brine.

Put the fish in the brine. Place a plate or some other object on top of the meat to keep it submerged. Brine the fish about 3 hours,  refrigerated.

Remove the fish, rinse, pat dry and lay out, skin side down, on cookie or jelly sheets lined with waxed paper. Discard brine. Place the fish in a dust-, cat- and dog-free place and allow to dry uncovered for about 4 hours until a skin ("pellicule") forms on the surface of the meat.

Smoke, skin side down on a greased, foil-covered rack in a smoker at about 190º (See Grill Basics for procedure, equipment and setup) for 2 - 4 hours. The fish should be honey- to molasses-brown and still visibly moist when done. The flesh when finished still has some give to it, like a rare steak, when you press on it with your fingers. Don't smoke it too long or the result will be dry.

Cool, wrap tightly and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature as described above, or use in recipes that call for smoked fish, such as omelets, paté, pasta sauce, etc.

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Comments

Stephen,

I'm really looking forward to the first snow -- in Maine. Then you'll have to live without grills and smokers and it will serve you right.

Kevin -- bluefish lover

Wow, bluefish brings back happy memories of our Boston Whaler boat days...had one docked in Norwalk CT and would take it out all the time when I was little. We would fish for the bluefish, catch 'em, and throw them back. Dad never wanted to cook them..and look what we missed out on!

Very interesting!
Paz

Where can I buy smoked bluefish in NYC?

I'm in Australia and I just made an enquiry about buying smoked Bluefish (or Tailor as it’s called down here) from a place called Acme Smoked Fish in Brooklyn NY. I hope that helps Gillian.

What I want to know is if these guys don’t ship overseas does anyone know where else I can buy smoked Bluefish??

I just used my smoker for the very first time and tossed in the 2 good sized blues that we caught that afternoon. YUMMY! Question, how do I store my smoked bluefish and how long will it last, as we can't eat all of this fish right away.

Smoked bluefish in my opinion doesn't freeze well so this is always a problem, since as you know when the bluefish are running you can end up with a boatful in a few minutes. I just wrap it well in plastic wrap and keep it refrigerated -- it lasts several days at least. The best thing to do, though, is enjoy it or give it away....here are a few suggestions: my Smoked Bluefish Tomato Cream Pasta is a favorite, or big time favorite Bluefish Paté...or in any recipe you'd use smoked fish for (on my blog do a search for "smoked salmon" to turn up three)...also I use it in omelets or serve it with bagels, cream cheese, tomato slices and sweet onion slices...chunks of smoked bluefish added to a nice salad of fresh greens makes it pretty good, too.

the horseradish sauce is something I just make to taste so I don't know the proportions...if I had to guess I'd say start with a cup of sour cream, add a tablespoon of white prepared horseradish, a healthy squeeze of lemon juice and a tablespoon of dried dill weed (or minced fresh dill, maybe 2 tablespoons)...then mix it up and taste it and then add a little more of whatever seems to be missing! Sometimes I add a squirt of hot sauce, if I'm in the mood.

Smoked Blue Fillets do freeze well. I remove the dark flesh that runs down the middle of the fillet. Then individually wrap 8-16oz in cling wrap. Over wrap each piece tightly at least one more time, then put the individual fillets in a ziplock bag and freeze. It will last at least 6 months and you can take out one or more pieces at a time to mix up a batch of Bluefish Pate. I've had people swear that they would never eat Bluefish, but low and behold, they always ask for more.

Do you know of a company that ships smoked blue fish? I live in Portland, Oregon and have not been able to locate a source here.

Awesome Blue Recipe!! wish bluefish didnt get such a bad rap. It is really a great fish to eat,fresh on the grill with a little pepper or smoked. Hopefully people will try is more often.

I just placed an order for smoked bluefish from Stoningtn Seafood in Maine and they shipped to CA. Of course, the shipping cost considerably more than the fish.

just read another post about where to buy in NYC - have been told there is a vendor at the Union Square Greenmarket who sells smoked bluefish too.

I live on the Chesapeake Bay and my smoked bluefish recipe is as follows:
Brine
2 Gal Water
2 lbs brown sugar
1 C Soy Sauce
cut blue fish filets into 1-2 inch strips and marinade overnight. (previously frozen works great!)
remove from brine and air dry. Do not wash off brine. smoke using apple chips....a green branch snapped of a tree is preferable. Smoke as per your smokers instructions. If any smoked fish is left over, I cut into smaller pieces, add capers, red onion and oil, making a fish spread. On a cracker it is to die for. You can't buy it anywhere and those who turn their nose up at blue fish can't get enough. For a bonus...I can it in little glass jars for christmas.

I just got home to a cooler 1/2 full of Blue fish. I love my friends Craig and Reiner of Eastern Shore..they leave me nice fresh caught fish..We have seasoned the smoker..and I found your recipe..and am going to start the process..ON Wen Evening..I am getting the friends over..the beer ready and I am wondering..what else do you need with fish and beer? Any suggestions..
BLUE FISH ARE SO GOOD SMOKED>>OMG>> HEAVEN FROM THE CHESAPEAKE BAY....

I've got about 25 lbs. of filets in the smoker right now thanks to my friends Dutch and the Bonecrusher. I use a heavier brine; 1cup kosher salt and 1/2 cup of brown sugar per qt.H2O. I do pellicle for several days in a refridge. and try to get 12 hrs. of apple smoke for big honkers like I got. The autumn bite was right.

Anyway, here's my bluefish salad recipe:

smoked bluefish, dark flesh removed
home made mayo using X-virgin olive oil
chives
wt. and bl. pepper
lime juice
fresh minced garlic (optional)
Process in a food processor w/ chopper blade

As others have stated "They can't get enough"

blues on the road...it ain't no thing...just fillet your fish and set em in the shade in a bucket of seawater which is set in a resevoir of ice. Leave for 4 -12 hrs (or until your mama yells at you to get them fish outta her bathtub).Then set your fish on racks and let a cool smoke (85 degrees) dehydrate the damn things for a day or two...after a certain point, it don't even matter if the smoke peters out- just light it and start again.Another way to do the dryin' is to hang the fish in the trunk of your grandaddy's '53 Bel Aire and drive through the Arizona desert...still got to do somethin about a smoky flavor though...

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