Here you'll find a mix of species focus, with multiple preparation styles for one species, and recipe focus, with versatile recipes that can be applied across seafood species. We structure this more broadly by filets vs. whole fish. Species names are bolded. For a summary of species we typically source, check out Seafood Details.
First a clarification of Blue Catfish. The locally-invasive Blue Cat is not a bottom-feeding mud-sucker like most of the catfish we're familiar with. In fact, as an adult it's carnivorous, which is what makes it so harmful in the Chesapeake. (It eats the locally treasured Maryland Blue Crab, contributing to population declines.) But that makes the fish hearty eating, comparable to a whiting but with nice thick fillets.
This Blue Cat Fishcakes dish earned the Harford County chef Zack Trabbold a trip to the World Food Championship, representing Maryland! (Chef Zack also cooked it for Near Country's guests at the first Farm Experience we held, in Fall 2021 at Grand View Farm.)
To prepare Blue Catfish fillets, we mostly endorse this Saveur recipe. We have made two modifications ourselves: 1) We've added a pesto mayo, 2) We've cooked the filet longer about twice as long as the recipe called for. (Depends of course on fillet thickness.)
We were also recently inspired by the Crispy Cornmeal Catfish at Shilling Canning Company, a restaurant in DC's Navy Yard area, for which the chef does source local Blue Catfish, like we do. This recipe, which fries the fish, is similar to what Shilling offers, and is a straightforward way to produce both fried catfish and grits!
Onto... Snakehead Fish! This long-bodied locally-invasive species shined bright in a 2015 Washington Post taste test against flounder and other better-known fish, excelling grilled, baked and beer-battered. More recently, the Ringer's Recipe Club lauded an Asian preparation with green bananas.
Snakehead can also make a terrific smoked whitefish salad, as customer and partner Eric K. shows us in this cooking tutorial!:
Tried Spanish Mackerel yet? Here are a few reasons to get motivated to try it, and even work into your regular rotation:
- Celebrity chef -- and DMV native -- David Chang has indicated Spanish Mackerel is his favorite fish to make at home. (He mentioned it in this podcast episode.)
- It's one of the oil-rich fish that's nutritionally essential (like salmon famously is).
Golden Tilefish is another shockingly under-appreciated Atlantic fin-fish. Because of their crustacean diet, Tilefish develop a rich flavor and texture. Some eaters swear they taste like the lobster and shrimp they hunt - you can be the judge of that, but what is certain is that this fish is a real treat grilled or pan-seared.
Another fish whose taste is compared to a crustacean - in this case, it's "poor man's lobster" - Monkfish has dense flesh and a sweet flavor. Try it grilled with lemon and dill, or with Catalonian seasoning grilled or pan-fried.
Hake is a fish with firm, flaky flesh that is similar to Cod and Pollock. Lesser known than these famous cousins in our region, it's revered in Spain and Portugal, and many great hake ("merluza") recipes come from Iberia. Try it pan-fried simply, or smoky with beans & greens (complemented with chorizo) ... or use one of the million Cod recipes out there (here are 37)!
Ina Garten's classic mustard and creme fraiche preparation is simple, versatile and delicious. We've loved it with Flounder and Black Sea Bass fillets.
Flounder gets baked with parmesan in a recipe recommended by subscriber Paolo S. from Montgomery County, and with lemon and butter in another recipe recommended by Vikas S. of Capitol Hill. Both recipes require only 10 minutes of active time and are plate-ready within 35 minutes.
For Rockfish (known as Striped Bass in the world outside the DMV), we're delighted by the Italian flavors complementing the fish's robust flavor and texture -- not to mention a veritable rainbow of colors (see below) -- in this "new favorite" recipe.
The rainbow effect is even more pronounced when the Rockfish turns white with cooking, and a basil garnish adds a verdant flourish.
And while it pains us a little to think about cutting up beautiful striped bass fillets, their transformation into Rockfish Chowder is worth it, as a change of pace, at least.
Red Drum (aka Redfish) runs all the way up to New England, but it's in Gulf cuisines that it most often gets starring roles. Here's a New Orleans preparation that brings in crab which, of course, the DMV knows a thing or two about. Here parchment is used to seal in moisture and make clean-up easier. And to make the dish with one of the coolest, oxymoronic names in any cuisine, try Paul Prudhomme's take on Blackened Redfish.
Whole fish preparations are easier than you might think, quite fun, and give you access to tasty meat pockets (notably, in the cheeks) that fillets don't. Here the Washington Post provides general roasting guidelines for just about any whole fish.
Black Sea Bass is a very popular species for whole-fish preparation. Try it grilled simply, roasted with lemon and herb, steamed Chinese-syle, roasted Chinese-style, or fried with Mexican seasoning.
Spanish Mackerel is often enjoyed whole, grilled (here with a garlic-parsley filling), pan-fried or oven-roasted (here Mediterranean-style in a recipe recommended by Vikas S.).
For locally-prized Rockfish (aka Striped Bass), try grilled with lemon & herb. These are great for entertaining because of their generous (even impressive) size.
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