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Skill Builder: Delish Fish

In search of the most delicious treasures from the Gulf.

By Robert Ramirez

During a recent fishing trip to the Third Coast, I packed my favorite novella from the great Ernest “Papa” Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea. During a lull in the action, I cracked open this literary masterpiece and picked up the chapter in which Papa describes Santiago eating and rating the fish he had on the boat to consume during his epic battle with a marlin.

In the novella, Santiago decides which fish to eat during his sustained battle as one of his hands begins to succumb to cramps while grasping the fishing line. He eats a little tuna (bonita) first and raves about how good the fish tastes. It was hard for me to believe he enjoyed a bonita and yet criticized a dorado for being too sweet. (Bonita is typically not eaten as it has a “tinny” taste due to the iron in the blood of the fish.)

After contemplating this story and reminiscing about my past fishing adventures, I decided to explore further to find the definitive, hands-down, best-tasting saltwater fish. As a native Texan with frequent trips to the Gulf Coast and the Pacific and Atlantic oceans during my fishing adventures, I was confident that I could anchor down the most savory, succulent treasures from the sea.

I began my quest by reaching out to friends, family and local coastal anglers to gather a definitive list of saltwater fish from coastal and offshore waters. Texas coastal anglers had varying perceptions and views based on their experiences and geographic locations along the coast.

kayak

Folks from Sabine Pass, High Island, Rockport, Corpus Christi and South Padre chimed in, and most picked one of the Texas top three fish: flounder, red drum and speckled trout. When I dug a little deeper, most were in agreement that a croaker in the one-pound range was close to the top of the list as well. Cornmeal-battered or baked, a croaker is hard to beat.

Each angler had a favorite regional recipe — from stuffed flounder in Rockport to redfish “blackened” in Sabine Pass to redfish “on the half shell” in Corpus Christi.

What about offshore? My offshore fishing adventures have taken me as far as the South Pacific, the Gulf of Alaska and back home to the Gulf of Mexico. My top three most delicious offshore species from my journeys outside Texas include Pacific halibut, dorado and lane snapper.

My friend Bret Chatham, offshore veteran and Texas native, has a massive Atlantic bluefin tuna (700 pounds) from Prince Edward Island to his credit. As a lifelong Gulf of Mexico angler, his top three offshore picks for flavor include dorado, wahoo and swordfish.

Handling is key to a delicious fish dish. All agreed that the catch must be packed on ice immediately. Some suggested that you “bleed the fish” — cut the gill arch of the fish — to ensure optimum flavor. These tips can help you enjoy the freshest bounty of the sea to share with friends and family.

Of course, at the end of the day, the best-tasting saltwater fish is the one you caught yourself, hands-down. Times spent angling with friends and family are to be savored — they’ll leave a good taste in your mouth for the rest of your life.

fish tacos

Grilled Fish Tacos

From AFIELD: A Chef's Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game & Fish

by Jesse Griffiths

Serves 4

2 large fish fillets, skin and scales on, about 1 lb. each
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp. hot paprika
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3 limes, thinly sliced
12 corn tortillas
¼ head of cabbage, chopped
2 avocados, diced
Few sprigs of cilantro
Vinegary hot sauce

Make a hot fire in a charcoal grill or set a gas grill on high heat.

Season the fish with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix together the oregano, paprika and butter. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the fillets, then layer the sliced limes on top.

Grill the fillets, skin side down, covered, for 12-20 minutes, depending on thickness, until the fish flakes easily and is cooked through.

Remove the fillets. Pull the cooked fish from the skin with a large spoon, discarding any skin and the bones.

Quickly heat the tortillas on the grill. Make tacos with the warmed tortillas, fish, cabbage, avocado, cilantro and hot sauce.

 

 


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