We’re not talking about the notorious Japanese Fugu here, although blowfish is part of the Tetraodontidae family of fish, which includes many species, and notably the poisonus pufferfish, or Fugu. These closely related species are similar to the porcupinefish, with external spines that are visible when the fish puffs up, hence the name blowfish. Having said all that, the blowfish we made last night is a local delicacy. It’s hard to believe that the bay here is full of these puffy little fishies, but we’re not complaining, because at 2Gourmaniacs, we constantly strive to be localvores.
Blowfish and I go way back . When I was kid summering on Long Beach Island (and, yeah, it was called the Jersey Shore back then too), my best friend, Philip and I would spend countless hours fishing from my leaky green rowboat. Various species of fish swam through Barnegat Bay where we fished. But the most common species was blowfish. A lot of afternoons we’d return to my dock with the rowboat bottom full of live blowfish flipping and flopping around in the inch or so of water which always seemed to be there no matter how furiously or how often I bailed with an old Maxwell House coffee can.
We’d load all the blowfish into wooden bushel baskets and haul them onto the dock. The blowfish would be in various states of expansion, some puffing up to the size of softballs while others just stared at us with their cold fishy eyes. Sometimes my mother would be on the dock watching us row home and to see what we had caught. When we showed up with bushel baskets of blowfish, we’d all hump them into the fish house. My mom would call my grandmother, and we’d settle down to an hour or so of serious blowfish cleaning.
The only thing you’re interested in is the tail meat. (Although my mother was extremely partial to blowfish roe, and if I could get my hands on some now, I’d probably be just as appreciative.) Blowfish bellies have small short spines; if you’re cleaning a few, it’s no big deal. When you start talking bushels, you want a stout pair of kitchen gloves. You actually skin the blowfish to reveal the tail meat, and then you gut it and cut it away from the head. I have fond memories of hot and humid, August dusks in our fish house facing the bay as the sun set, and going inside our house for a blowfish dinner.
1 lb Blowfish, cleaned, tails only
2 whole eggs, thoroughly beaten in a bowl
½ cup flour
½ cup panko
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 ½ cups canola oil (more or less depending upon the pan you’re using)
salt & pepper to taste
Tartar sauce of your choice
1+ Tbsp capers
Fresh chopped parsley
This is so simple, yet so good. After last night’s dinner, and seeing the photograph of it plated, the other GM has been craving more blow fish all day; I told her to go back to the fish store and get some more. Here’s what I did.
Put the eggs, flour and panko in three separate bowls. Add the red pepper flakes to the flour along with salt and pepper, and combine throughly. Pour the canola oil into a skillet or a saute pan, and heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse the blow fish tails under running water, pat dry with paper towels and dredge them in the flour first, then dip them in the beaten eggs, and finally coat them with the panko. When the oil is to temperature, drop the blow fish in and cook 1 ½ minutes per side. (You may have to fry them in batches depending upon your pan). They should have a lustrous golden brown crust. Transfer them to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Add some capers and chopped parsley to your favorite tartar sauce. Finish cooking all the blow fish. Plate three or four (or a dozen) blowfish and serve with your caper-tartar sauce and lemon slices.
RMA & RSA