Smoked bluefish

Wind east, fish bite least, and that was the case on Saturday morning when we ran east to Wianno to scout some striped bass on the flats by the fish weir. The conditions were too overcast and sloppy to see any cruising fish so we ran back to Cotuit and set up a drift towards Sub Rock, casting orange Roberts and Ballistic Missiles on wire leaders. In twenty minutes we landed eight big bluefish – averaging eight to ten pounds – and stopped at the point of Sampson’s Island to fillet them and toss the racks into the channel for the crabs to pick over.

I brined the fish in a gallon of water, two cups of kosher salt, a cup of maple syrup, garlic powder, Pete’s Texas Hot and a lot of soy sauce, leaving the fillets in the fridge overnight until this morning, when I dried them to a shiny pellicle, ground a ton of black pepper over them, and finished them with a dusting of Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning. Eight hours in the Cabela’s vertical propane smoker with two loads of soaked hickory chunks and I now have a big stack of leathery smoked bluefish. I’ll turn some of it into bluefish pate, using the Legal Seafood’s recipe; the rest will get wrapped and handed out to neighbors and friends. If I do two loads this spring, it will be a lot, and every time I do it I start to wonder, based on the $10 the restaurants charge for about two ounces of the pate, if I could set the kids up with a serious business venture peddling smoked fish to the high end boutique grocery stores here in Cotuit and Osterville. Then I start thinking about the Board of Health and snap back to reality. I hate to waste fish, and if the family can polish off four fillets it’s a miracle. I’ve tried vacuum sealing the stuff, freezing it – nothing really works on smoked fish, and bluefish, sorry to say, is not my favorite fish in the world unless it is blackened Cajun style or smoked dark brown like a herring.

I really want a striper for the table, but just am not clever or devoted enough to set the alarm and bomb off into the dawn for Bishops & Clerks or the shoals off of Succonnesset. Maybe tomorrow. I really am a fan of pan roasted bass with a chive and sour cream sauce.

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