We spent July 4th down in LBI with our friends John and Liz since the Ryan residence is still out of commission from Sandy. As mentioned last week, I was a typically awful houseguest: serving offal to unsuspecting children, snoring on couches, and complaining about hot pepper juice I rubbed in my own eyes. There was no fishing or clamming on this trip, but lots of relaxation on the beach and deck.
However, on a ride down LBI Boulevard the first day to pick up food for dinner, I noticed that a few of the seafood shops were advertising blowfish on their signs. Not only advertising them, but doing so excitedly (meaning: exclamation marks).
If you look really closely, so closely that you’re not really sure whether you are actually seeing it or just pretending you can see it, you’ll see that the sign says “Blowfish are back!”. That sign is there because, well, blowfish are back, and you should be excited about that. Me, I was pretty excited. You ‘cited?
I’d definitely encountered a couple blowfish diving over the years, but I’ve never cooked or even seen them in their cleaned, raw form before. Aside from the early Simpsons fugu episode where Homer almost dies from eating poisonous blowfish, I can’t say I had even thought of them as food, really. I guess they are relatively innocuous looking.
But, I mean, seriously? This is food?
When we went into Boulevard Clams, I had no idea what the blowfish meat would look like; I would have believed anything from a deflated basketball to a beautiful fillet. But, what they actually looked like was entirely logical. Almost boringly logical.
The general anatomy and how much of those fishies were edible was a complete mystery to me, and as usual the yokels at the store weren’t much help. What do they taste like: “chicken”, how do you eat them: “like chicken”, whats the best way to cook them: “jest fry ’em up”. I know, we were in New Jersey, not some backwoods locale, but good lord were these guys unhelpful and yokelish. That said, they have a customer for life as long as they carry blowfish every season, and for $9.99 a pound no less.
With no creative cooking ideas and not wanting to stink up the house frying things inside, I decided to keep it relatively simple and put a sautee pan over medium/high heat. While it heated, I salted and peppered each piece of blowfish. Once the pan was hot, I added a little olive oil and a couple cloves of chopped garlic then the blowfish. What I meant there was, once the pan was way hotter than it should have been I added all that stuff.
After a couple minutes on one side, I flipped the fish, added a solid pour of rosé (it was open), and put the lid on to finish the cooking.
After another 3-4 minutes I moved the fish to a plate, reduced the last of the wine in the pan to thicken into a sauce, and poured it over the fish. A little squeeze of lemon over the top, and it was ready to be served.
After tuna fishing last year, I babbled about what a perfect fish tuna is for how easily the loins come off and how much is edible. I was even more impressed with the blowfish. The spine is directly attached to the fins on the top and bottom and has a flat center bone that runs up the whole fish. The meat comes off in two large pieces, one on each side of the spine with no bones in the meat, and no other picking needed.
As far as the taste, I don’t know if this was extremely fresh or something, but it was much much better than I expected. The meat was rich and slightly sweet with none of the fishy flavor you expect from a darker-meat fish. The texture was buttery and soft like properly cooked cobia, and the collagen from cooking on the bone coated your lips when you ate it. As usual I base whether or not I am the only one who would find it tasty on the reactions of others, and three people besides myself ate the blowfish and had seconds. Including Kristi. See! I don’t always just make up the fact that things taste good, sometimes its true and stuff!
Hopefully more fish for next week, if I can figure out when the sketchy docks in Little Compton open this time around.