The Forgotten Fish of the Chesapeake | WYPR

The Forgotten Fish of the Chesapeake

Nov 14, 2017

Credit Mindaugas Danys/flickr

Last week we talked about the 'King of the Chesapeake Bay,' the mighty rockfish. But lest we think it all begins and ends with the good ole' striped bass, let's remember there are quite a few other fish in the sea.  And Chef Jerry Pellegrino, one of Baltimore's most creative chefs, has made it a point to work with these forgotten fish. Here are some of his ideas.

Smoked Bluefish

This is a three-step process (brine, dry, smoke) which takes all day, so you have to start early!

4 sides (fillets) of average-sized bluefish (5 - 7 lb of fillets).
2 qts water
3/4 C kosher salt
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C soy sauce
2 bay leaves
zest of 1 lemon
2 sprigs fresh dill, chopped

Mix brine well in a glass, porcelain or plastic container large enough to hold the fish meat and the brine. You have to stir for about 10 minutes to dissolve the salt and sugar completely. Warming the water accelerates the dissolving time but the water must be cool before putting the fish in, so I usually make the brine with warm water in the evening and then refrigerate it overnight. That way, when I get up to get started in the morning I just have to slip the fish into the brine.

Put the fish in the brine. Place a plate or some other object on top of the meat to keep it submerged. Brine the fish about 3 hours, refrigerated.

Remove the fish, rinse, pat dry and lay out, skin side down, on cookie or jelly sheets lined with waxed paper. Discard brine. Place the fish in a dust-, cat- and dog-free place and allow to dry uncovered for about 4 hours until a skin ("pellicule") forms on the surface of the meat.

Smoke, skin side down on a greased, foil-covered rack in a smoker at about 190º (See Grill Basics for procedure, equipment and setup) for 2 - 4 hours. The fish should be honey- to molasses-brown and still visibly moist when done. The flesh when finished still has some give to it, like a rare steak, when you press on it with your fingers. Don't smoke it too long or the result will be dry.

Cool, wrap tightly and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature as described above, or use in recipes that call for smoked fish, such as omelets, paté, pasta sauce, etc.

Fried Blue Catfish

4 - 8oz. blue catfish filets

3⁄4 cup flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

3⁄4 cup water

Sift dry ingredients.

Add water and mix well.

Coat the catfish filets with the batter.

Deep fry in oil at 350°F until a nice golden brown. Drain in paper towels and serve with tartar sauce.                 

Pan Fried Perch

1 1⁄2cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons paprika

1⁄2 teaspoon salt


1 cup milk

1⁄2 cup butter

8 fresh perch filet

Mix flour, paprika, and salt together and set aside.

In a small bowl, blend the egg and the milk.

Heat butter in a large frying pan.

Dip perch fillets in egg wash first and then into the flour mixture.

Carefully place them into the hot butter in the frying pan and brown on both sides.

Remove from the butter and drain on a paper towel to absorb excess butter.