Singing the blues.
You’ve already rethought your vacation, your retirement, those new peep-toe Louboutins. So why not rethink your fish? There’s one that’s local, plentiful, and, yes, heart-warmingly cheap. I’m talking bluefish. What, are you scowling already? Forget it, you’re thinking, it’s much too oily, too strong, too…fishy. Well, all the convincing you’ll need is in residence at several county restaurants. At the Heights Bistro & Bar (334 Underhill Ave, Yorktown Heights 914-962-3777) in particular, owner David Shankin’s rebuttals involve pomegranate glazes, ginger/lime vinaigrettes, and Moroccan spice blends, each one elevating the fish to subdued, tender heights.
I get your ambivalence: yes, bluefish can be oily and strong-flavored, but folks, so are chorizo and kalamatas, and we can’t get enough of them. The key is freshness and preparation. Eat a pale-fleshed filet from a three-pound “cocktail” blue or a whole small “snapper” blue caught yesterday and, suddenly, “strong” becomes robust, “oily” becomes rich. And, as for its “fishiness,” many chefs consider that a major draw. “I know I’m eating fish,” says Shakin. “Its fattiness is so satisfying.” Owner Alex Rubeo of Armonk Lobster House (1 Kent Pl, Armonk, 914-276-0000) concurs: “It’s hearty and takes well to other strong flavors. You can’t do that with delicate sole.”
Right about now, the migrating blues are approaching our waters, so freshness is optimum. Whether the fish is grilled, roasted, smoked or broiled, chefs are concocting as many preparations as there are blues now gliding past the Maryland shore. Shakin likes to offset their fattiness (a “good” fat, by the way) with something acidic or bitter, often accompanying a filet with grilled radicchio or garlicky broccoli rabe. At Zuppa (59 Main St, Yonkers, 914-376-6500), Chef Michael D’Bride sears Cajun-spice-rubbed filets and serves them with pineapple salsa. Or he’ll bake whole snappers with citrus confit and perch them atop arugula and watercress. Armonk Lobster House pan-roasts filets, then bathes them in a broth of tomatoes, clams, and herbs. And Joe DiMauro at Mount Kisco Seafood and The Fish Cellar Restaurant (477 Lexington Ave, Mount Kisco 914-241-3113) lives for grilled cocktail-blue filets glazed with horseradish, tarragon, and mustard. “Just grill them skin-side down, about 15 minutes, and don’t turn them,” he instructs. “Bluefish gets a bad rap, but when it’s cooked right, people love it.” At his and other markets, it’s priced from $6 to $7 a pound—another reason to start spreading that love around.