Tilefish is a tasty fish found in Atlantic and Gulf waters. I was even recently surprised to learn it was “discovered” in 1879 off Nantucket Island (my old ‘hood), so that makes it especially wonderful, in my book. It’s a bottom dweller that eats lots of shellfish, giving it a sweet flavor when cooked, similar to that of lobster or crab. It’s also versatile to cook, giving you lots of options. Sadly, it’s sometimes referred to as a “Trash Fish” — those lesser-known, underutilized, and basically “underloved” fish. They include Lionfish, Sheepshead, Grunts, Tripletail, Triggerfish, Monkfish, Porgy, Sardine, Conch, Spanish Mackerel, Sea Robin and Bonita, and many others, but several have gained notoriety recently after professional chefs started featuring them on their menus. I’ve been fortunate to taste many, and they’re truly delicious.
As consumers, there’s opportunity to support these lesser-known species by buying them at fish markets and ordering them on menus. Creating demand for these fish provides income to independent fishermen, lessens pressure on more popular species, and offers us opportunity to enjoy delicious seafood at a lower price. I’m excited that here in Sarasota, six of our talented chefs are celebrating these fish by collaborating on an upcoming Trash Fish Sarasota dinner sponsored by Edible Sarasota. It will be a great opportunity to try some fish you’ve never even heard of! Please check out the links for more information about this local event. Maybe there’s even a similar event in your own neck of the woods!
For my dish, I slow cooked my fillets in a skillet, basting them regularly with butter so they stayed moist and flavorful (this preparation works well with any flaky, white fish, by the way). I made a batch of polenta, but this fish would be delicious with just about anything (green salad, sautéed veggies, roasted potatoes, etc.). A yummy dinner for a much-loved fish in our household.
Take a look at these gorgeous fillets:
And here’s the finished dish:
- 2 (6-8 oz.) Tilefish fillets, skinned, deboned & patted dry
- 2 Tb. unsalted butter
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 whole clove garlic, peeled
- 2 Tb. chopped scallions or chives
- 1 lemon, zested
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Lightly sprinkle each fillet with salt & pepper.
- Heat butter and red pepper flakes on medium heat in non-stick skillet. Add garlic clove.
- Allow garlic to roast in warm butter for a few minutes, until it starts to turn brown, then remove.
- Add fillets to pan. Allow them to cook over medium heat about 1-2 minutes to brown. Once brown, flip each fillet.
- Toss in scallions or chives and spoon the butter mixture over each fillet.
- Cover pan for about 2 minutes.
- Remove cover and tip pan enough to spoon butter over each fillet. Keep spooning until the fillets are brown, roasted, and fully cooked (about 2 minutes).
- Remove from pan. Sprinkle with lemon zest and a little juice over fillets before serving.