Lisa in the comments admits to detesting bluefish. This is for her, an oldie from my days as FishWire correspondent for Cape Cod and The Islands at Reel-Time.
“Fish was rarely on the menu in my childhood unless it came out of a box, was pre-breaded, and could be cooked on a cookie sheet in under an hour in a 450 degree oven. My father, the original meat-and-potato man, forbade fish or chicken in the house. Chicken, because he had a phobia of chickens due to his World War II duties as keeper of the household chicken coop; fish, because his mother would can bluefish with a pressure cooker in Mason jars to lay up some protein for the winter months.
My brother and I took the tale of canned bluefish as pure Cape Cod legend, up there with stealing coal and catching cabbages that fell off of trucks as part of the “penny-saved-penny earned” lectures we were subjected to whenever the old gent finished paying the monthly bills and decided we would live without electricity for the next month (his favorite economizing move was to make orange juice with the frozen stuff but forbid it ever being shaken or stirred. The idea was to add more water over time, allowing the orange sausage of concentrate to hang on the bottom of the bottle, pale orange water above it).
The canned bluefish was just a quaint myth until I cleaned out the cellar last winter and found a sixty-year old Mason jar filled with what appeared to be a pickled demon fetus from the Omen IV. We opened it on the front lawn while wearing heavy rubber gloves. The grass is still dead there, like some sort of crop circle left by aliens.
Here are some recipes from the Churbuck Culinary Academy of Ruined Food, courtesy of my predecessors who never met a fish they could stomach:
Honey, the Dog Is Eating Grass Again Bluefish
- Take one bluefish, preferably one caught early in the morning and then thrown into the stern of the motorboat back by the scupper plugs where it can curl, get stiff in the sun and baste all afternoon in a rainbow patina of gasoline and two-stroke outboard oil.
- Filet with a rusty knife, taking care to leave scales and the rib bones in the flesh.
- Leave the dark meat in the fish. For that is where the PCBs are most concentrated.
- Take a cookie sheet. Preferably the kind that warps into a pretzel shape with a loud “thwang” when heated. Cover with aluminum foil. I don’t know if the shiny or dull side up matters or not.
- Do not grease the foil. The fish must stick to the foil so your guests will have the electric thrill of finding out what happens when foil meets one of their fillings.
- With the meat side up cover the bluefish with a one-inch thick layer of Miracle Whip, the evil stepsister of Hellmans Mayo.
- Bake or broil (it just doesn’t matter) until the Miracle Whip is kind of browned like a meringue.
- Serve, and then remember you forgot to make any kind of side dish. Dig out some freezer-burned Tater Tots and bake in the oven until lukewarm while the fish gets cold.
- Eat. Feel bad. Then start drinking. Get angry at nothing in particular and call your nearest relation “a leech who contributes nothing” or “an oxygen thief” and then start a mallet fight with the kids’ croquet set on the lawn in front of the horrified neighbors. Ask them what they are looking at.