Orange-Scented Bluefish from Where There's Smoke by Barton Seaver
Bluefish is remarkably delicious and versatile. It is wonderful on the grill, its fatty richness complemented by the flavor of wood smoke. That richness (“oiliness” to the minds of some) causes many people to shun bluefish and other similar ocean brethren. All I can say is, oh well, more for me. Here orange zest provides an acidic tang that helps to balance the flavors, and the slow, low heat of the smoldering wood cooks the fish without drying it out.
• One 1¼ -pound skin-on bluefish fillet, soaked in Fish Brine (below)
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• Finely shredded zest of 1 orange
Remove the fish from the brine and pat it dry. Brush it with a mixture of the olive oil and orange zest. Place the fish, skin side down, on the grill away from the coals of a small fire.
Add a few chunks of wood to the coals and cover the grill. For bluefish, I prefer a fruit or nut wood such as peach, pecan, apple, or cherry. Orange wood is also a fun choice.
Close the air intake to just a sliver and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet and intensity of the fire. When the fish is cooked, it will have a beautiful rusty hue and the meat will flake under gentle pressure.
Gently remove the filets to a platter and serve immediately. I like to remove the skin of bluefish and the underlying darkly colored bloodline just beneath it, as these can have strong flavors that some guests do not appreciate. It also helps to remove some of the toxins that are a concern with bluefish, as they tend to aggregate just under the skin.
Fish deserve some salty foreplay just as much as pork and poultry. Every type of seafood is different in terms of density of the flesh, so different brine times are needed for different fish.
• 2 cups warm water
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• 1 tablespoon sugar
Mix all the ingredients and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Submerge the fish in the brine, weighting it down with a plate if need be, and brine according to these guidelines:
• Trout, shrimp, sardines, and other delicate seafood: 15 minutes
• Bass, barramundi, sablefish, and other flaky fillets: 20 minutes
• Halibut, mahimahi, bluefish, and other flaky, meaty fillets: 30 minutes
• Salmon, mackerel, Arctic char, and other meaty, full-flavored fish: 35 minutes
• Amberjack, cobia, swordfish, and other dense, steak-like fish: 40 minutes
Makes enough to brine fillets for 4 people; for whole fish, double the recipe