Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pan-Seared Bluefish with Rainbow Chard, Fingerling Potatoes and Oysters

During a recent vacation in the Outer Banks, I went on a fishing trip with my beautiful Angel and her father, Frank.  The charter took us fishing on the Pamlico Sound.  We were fishing for grey trout, flounder, redfish and bluefish. While I enjoy fishing for all of those species, the one that intrigued me the most is the bluefish. 

Bluefish are a migratory, open-water species of fish that can be found in every ocean and in many waterways.  The species goes by different names around the world ... they are called "tailor" in Australia, "shad" in South Africa and by other names such as "elf," "chopper" and "anchoa" in other parts of the world.  Chopper is an apt name for this species, because it has a reputation for being a voracious predator, striking at anything with its triangular, razor-sharp teeth.  Schools of bluefish -- known as "blitzes" -- have been known to relentlessly chase their prey, which includes butterfish, herring, weak fish and croakers.  In the Chesapeake Bay, bluefish feast upon bay anchovies, white perch, American shad, and alewife. 

The best way to catch a bluefish is by handline fishing, although that has proven tricky for me (because I have yet to catch one).  If one were to catch a bluefish, he or she would be greeted by a beautiful creature.  The bluefish has  a large head, compressed body and broad, forked tail.  The color of its skin starts as a greenish-blue and fades to a white tone on its belly.  If you come across bluefish in a store, you should look to see if it was caught by handline, as that is the most sustainable way of catching this fish.  However, Seafood Watch advises that bluefish caught by bottom gillnet or bottom-line trawl are a good alternative, although there are some concerns about by-catch. 

Once you have a bluefish in your hands, the fish provides very meaty fillets that are excellent for cooking.  Bluefish fillets are amenable to many different processes, such as pan-searing, broiling, baking, and even grilling.  They also provide a great palate for a variety of herbs and spices.  

This dish represents an attempt myself to create a special dish for my beautiful Angel. The centerpiece is pan-seared bluefish.  However, there are a few additional elements.  There are fingerling potatoes, which I sliced into coins to facilitate the cooking of the potatoes.  There is rainbow chard, which is wilted in a mixture of butter, oil and white wine.  Finally, there are raw oysters, which are added at the end of the cooking process so that they cook just a little before being served.  (Oysters can quickly overcook and become tough and chewy.)  

This dish truly challenged me, because I do not have formal training and the different elements have different means of being cooked, require different times for cooking and are difficult to put together in one combined dish.  This recipe remains a work in progress and I will tweak it based upon my subsequent efforts.   

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-4

1 pound of bluefish, cut into even sized fillets
1/2 pint of oysters
1 pound of fingerling potatoes, sliced thinly into coins
1 bunch of rainbow chard, washed, de-stemmed 
1 cup of yellow onions, diced finely
4 cloves of garlic, diced finely
1/4 cup of white wine
5 tablespoons of butter
6 ounces of olive oil
1 bay leaf
Several sprigs of thyme
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1.  Cook the potatoes.  Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 ounces of olive oil in a pan.  Add the onions and garlic.  Cook until the onions begin to soften, about three to four minutes.  Add the potatoes, bay leaf and thyme.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes begin to cook through.  Remove from the heat.

2.  Prepare the fish.  Season the fish with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tablespoons of butter and 2 ounces of oil in a second pan over high heat. Place the fillet flesh side down in the pan and reduce the heat to medium high or medium.  Make sure that the fish does not stick to the pan.  Cook the fish for about three minutes and then flip the fish so that the fish is skin side down.  Continue cooking the fish until it is cooked through, with the flesh being opaque and the internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. 

3.  Cook the chard.  While the fish is cooking, return the pan with the potatoes to the heat.  Add the remaining butter and/or oil if necessary.  Add the chard and white wine and continue to cook for a couple of minutes.  As the chard begins to evaporate, add the oysters and cook only until the oysters begin to become opaque.  Remove the pan from the stove.

4.  Plate the dish.  Plate each of the dishes with the potatoes and shard.  Place the bluefish over the potatoes and shard, and, the oysters around the bluefish.  Return the pan to the heat on high for a couple of minutes to cook down the remaining pan sauce.  Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.



Anonymous said...

Very lovely Chef Bolek, you continue to inspire!

Anonymous said...

Very lovely Chef Bolek, you continue to inspire!

Keith Bolek said...

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my post and to leave a message. I greatly appreciate it.

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