How do you take the musty-smelling, sharp-toothed bluefish and make it palatable for the masses?
It helps if you have a quartet of talented North Fork chefs on hand and a whole lot of olive oil for poaching.
Bluefish and tomatoes were the necessary ingredients in an “Iron Chef” type competition at Grown on Long Island Day at the Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank on Friday, Aug. 8. Chefs Kyle Strong-Romeo of the Jedediah Hawkins Inn and Amanda Falcone, a pastry chef at the North Fork Table & Inn, battled chef Steve Amaral of the North Fork Chocolate Co. and his sous chef Rene Oliva for bragging rights.
The chefs were given the two ingredients and money to buy fresh, local produce from the event’s farmers market for the “Seafood Throwdown,” sponsored by New York Sea Grant. The annual competition at the Long Island Farm Bureau-sponsored fair raises awareness of cooking with local seafood.
“No one eats it,” Amaral said of bluefish. “This is bait.”
But judging from the line a people waiting to sample Amaral’s seared and poached bluefish served with a white wine wine, roasted corn and tomato broth, he was just exaggerating.
“They worked amazing magic with bluefish,” said Robin Lee Simmen, a community horticulture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, and one of the contest’s three judges. “They were very different presentations, but both were fresh and bright.”
But it was team Strong-Romeo/Falcone that the judges, which included Suffolk County Community College’s culinary arts director Rich Freilich and Edible East End deputy editor Eileen Duffy, selected as the best.
“Bluefish is tough,” said Strong-Romeo, who won over the judges with skin-on seared bluefish served with a yogurt, dill and cumin fingerling potato salad. “It has a distinct flavor and it’s a fish that you need certain ingredients to cook well.”
Bluefish are abundant in New York waters from May through November.