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In Season: Bluefish Two Ways

Thu, 07/06/1978 - 09:36
Wikimedia Commons

Is there a better East End summer dish than chilled fish or seafood? And think of the possibilities! With a big advance from your publisher or the profit from that lot you sold in Sagaponack you could buy a few shrimp. That isn’t what I had in mind. Shrimp are not worth the money. Cold lobster is a better idea, as is cold poached salmon “sauce verte” (providing you aren’t bored with it by now) and bass is equally fine. 

You might turn the whole job over to an outside source such as the Seafood Shop in Wainscott, Loaves and Fishes in Sagaponack, or Mews Market in East Hampton and buy some seafood salad. These places all concoct opulent mixtures of lobster, crabmeat, shrimp and such at prices that have outpaced the inflationary spiral by years but the stuff is so rich (especially at the Seafood Shop) that you can stretch a pound to feed ten or twelve providing you have many and simpler accompaniments. 

With lesser species and lesser bankrolls you can still do wonders, cold, from the deep. Lime-marinated raw flounder seviche spangled with chopped hot chili peppers, avocado slices and diced tomatoes or barely cooked squid rings soaking in oil and vinegar heavily laced with garlic and lemon are just the beginning.

A well-made bluefish salad can’t be beat. I’m not talking about one of those leftover broiled fish mishmashes but a carefully assembled, custom job. It makes all the difference. The shark may have gotten away but they’re landing plenty of blues. 

Steamed Bluefish 

1 bunch scallions 
2 lbs. bluefish fillets 
1 tsp. slivered fresh ginger 
Freshly ground black pepper 

Place scallions in a flat-bottomed pan large enough to hold the fish in a single layer and equipped with a tightfitting cover. An electric skillet is ideal. (If you will be making the bluefish salad, reserve two or three scallions for chopping.) Just cover the scallions with water and bring to a simmer. Add the fish, skin side down. Sprinkle with ginger and pepper. Cover and steam gently for about ten minutes, until fish is just done. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Remove fish, draining well. Discard the steaming liquid and scallions. Skin the fish, lightly salt it, and either serve it hot with a sauce (soy sauce, lemon juice and mustard, for example, or sour cream) or chill it for salad. 

Bluefish Salad With New Potatoes 

12 small whole new potatoes 
2 lbs. skinned bluefish, steamed, skinned, and chilled 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced scallions 
1/3 cup chopped green pepper 
2 Tbsp. minced fresh dill 
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley 
3 Tbsp. drained capers 
8 calamata olives, pitted and chopped 
1/4 cup white vinegar 
1 tsp. dry mustard 
1/2 cup olive oil 
3 Tbsp. chopped, peeled and seeded cucumber 
1 Tbsp. minced red onion 
1/2 cup plus 3 Tbsp. sour cream 

Garnishes: green pepper rings, red onion rings, sprigs of dill, calamata olives, cucumber slices, hard boiled egg wedges, cherry tomatoes. 

Boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water until just tender. Drain and set aside to cool. 

With your fingers, break up the chilled bluefish into half-inch chunks in a very large bowl. If you like, you may also remove the very dark, soft flesh that lies next to the skin. The bowl should be much too large for the amount of fish because that will make it very easy to mix and you will be less likely to wind up with mashed fish. The salad should be somewhat chunky. 

Lightly season the fish with salt and pepper. Mix scallions, green pepper, dill and parsley together. Reserve two tablespoons of this mixture. Add the rest to the fish along with the capers and olives. Using a large spoon or a spatula, gently fold the vegetables and herbs into the fish chunks, but do no overmix. Combine the vinegar and mustard and whisk in the oil. Pour one half cup of this dressing over the fish and fold in gently. Refrigerate. 

Quarter the potatoes and mix with reserved herbs and vegetables, the onion and cucumber. Gently mix with remaining vinegar and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Here, too, a large bowl is helpful although not crucial. 

Season the bluefish carefully with salt and pepper, bearing in mind that chilled foods tend to require more seasoning. Fold in half cup of the sour cream. Fold the three tablespoons of sour cream into the potatoes. Recheck all seasonings. Arrange the bluefish in a neat mound on a serving platter. Arrange the potato salad in a ring around the fish salad and garnish the platter with onion and green pepper rings, dill, olives, eggs and tomatoes. 

Serves six.

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