Tuesday, July 12, 2011

tilefish with tomato and cucumber gazpacho

I had never heard of tilefish. So when I set out to do this recipe, I assumed it was some rare fish that is only found in the northwest Adriatic during the fourth week of October on Leap Years, and that I would have to figure out what tilefish was like, so I could make an intelligent substitution.

So, I type "tilefish substitution" into Google, and the first hit comes up as a food reference site. It says that tilefish is a firm, white meat fish. OK, that's easy. I can substitute a million things for that. Then it says that lives in tropical waters, and is caught in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico is way closer to my house than the Adriatic. Things are looking up.

In the weeks leading up to my sungold tomatoes being ready for harvest, I was in my favorite seafood store and asked if they had tilefish. They said no, but they can get it anytime. They'd order it and let me know.

Then my sungolds ripened, and it was go-time. So I called my favorite seafood store and asked if that tilefish was in.

Never got any.

So I return to Google and ask it for the names of seafood markets in Pinellas County. It came back with 20. I'm sure there are more, but this was a start. I called 19 of them and got answers ranging from, "No," to "Not today," to "What's that?" And a few didn't answer at all. Stupid economy. And oil spill.

The last one on the list was the one farthest from my house, Pelican Point Seafood. "Sure. We have five. How many you want?"

So I drove 25 miles to Tarpon Springs.

When I got all the way to the end of Dodecanese Boulevard, there was Pelican Point. I went in and told the woman I needed tilefish. "You want them fileted?"

I've fileted fish before. Hell yes, I want them fileted. It doesn't cost extra, and if it did, it would be worth it.

"You want the skin taken off?"

Here, I made a strategic blunder. I'm not a huge fan of fish skin. And I didn't recall it being mentioned in the recipe. And I didn't have the book on me.

"Yes, please take the skin off."

Babbo Cookbook, Page 185, ingredient list for Tilefish in a Sungold Tomato and Cool Cucumber Gazpacho, reads in part:

… 4 6-ounce tilefish fillets, SKIN ON …

And then in the directions, we skip to step 2:

"… Score each fish fillet on the SKIN side … and place in the pan, SKIN side down. …"

My memory clearly sucks.

Anyway, even in its skinless state, the fish was good, and the gazpacho came out really well. It has been averaging about 350 degrees around here, so a cool dish was perfect.

Up next: montauk lobster salad


Philip said...

Love the blog, thanks for the flavorful mix of humor and cooking - makes me crave for more.

Alan said...

Many, many years ago, I saw tilefish at Ward's. Damn tasty fish, and I've kept an eye out for it ever since, with zero luck. Tarpon Springs is a haul, but it might be worth it. That looks like a lovely summery dish.