I’m a sucker for nostalgia. It transports me to another time and place; brings back fond memories of experiences of long ago. That’s not to say I dwell in the past. But through nostalgia the past does inform my present. And few things invoke as much nostalgia as recipes.
Today’s recipe is a dose of nostalgia wrapped in a bit of extra nostalgia, with a nostalgia cherry on top. It marries three experiences of my childhood, and kicks them soundly into the modern day. Not that that was my intention. It was purely accidental.
Ever since we moved to New York’s Hudson Valley from Colorado six-plus months ago, we’ve been taking full advantage of our proximity to the ocean and the bounty of fresh seafood it offers. More and more, we find ourselves spending time on the New Paltz side of the river, where I introduced Kelli to rock climbing when we first started dating more than 8 years ago. Each time we made the short drive, my eyes kept getting drawn to Gadaleto’s, a fresh seafood market. We kept saying we were going to stop in and check the place out, but for one reason or another, we kept postponing. Finally, last Sunday was the day.
From the moment I walked through the front door, I was reminded of some of the seafood markets I knew growing up on Long Island, NY (Nostalgia 1.0). These were the kind of places where the fish was local, wild, and super fresh, and the types of fish they offered were whatever had just come off the boats. As we browsed Gadaleto’s offerings, I was almost instantly drawn to the blackfish.
The vast majority of blackfish is caught by recreational fisherman. As a result, it’s extremely rare to find it for sale in a seafood market. I couldn’t resist the opportunity. In fact, the last blackfish I ate was some I caught myself more than 15 years ago (Nostalgia 2.0).
I used to go fishing with my Uncle Joe. In the fall – maybe October, or early November – after most folks had taken their boats out of the water following Labor Day, and after the weather had turned colder, we’d head out in his boat for blackfish. He had a few choice spots in the waters in and around the Great South Bay, a body of water that separates the narrow barrier beaches of the Atlantic-facing south shore of Long Island from the island’s “mainland.” Using green crabs for bait, we’d drop our lines to the bottom of the bay and wait for the unmistakeable strikes of the blackfish.
When it came time to decide how to prepare our Gadaleto’s blackfish, one idea came instantly to mind. Much of the time during my childhood, the fish and crabs and clams we’d catch would be taken home, where we’d do the gutting, the cleaning, the prep, the cooking, the eating. But there were times when we’d eat our fresh catch right on the beach. Uncle Joe would make a large tin foil packet, put the cleaned whole fish inside, add some seawater (literally), maybe a few cloves of garlic, some slices of lemon, and perhaps a pat of butter or touch of olive oil, and cook it over an open fire. Then we’d open up the foil packet, peel the fish’s skin back, and use forks to eat the moist, tender meat right off the bone. Also known as Nostalgia 3.0.
I made a foil packet for our blackfish (a filet, rather than the whole fish, in this case), made a saltwater solution that emulated the saltiness of seawater, added some garlic cloves, slices of lemon, and for good measure, a touch of both butter and olive oil. I roasted it in the oven, and roughly 30 minutes later, those first bites of moist, tender blackfish had me in nostalgia overdrive. Just ask Kelli, who patiently listened to me relate the stories I describe above in exacting detail as we ate the fish.
I can’t promise this recipe will mean quite the same thing to you that it does to me (nostalgia, after all, is hard to transfer from one person to another), but I can promise that it’s delicious. And you don’t need blackfish to give it a try. This method of cooking – somewhere halfway between poaching and steaming the fish – would work well for many varieties.
Foil Packet Blackfish
Makes 3 servings
1 lb blackfish filet
1 lemon, sliced
3 large garlic cloves, halved
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c water with 1 tbsp salt dissolved
1. Preheat your oven to 475 deg F.
2. Rinse and pat dry the fish.
3. Place the fish into the center of a large piece of foil. (If using heavy duty foil, one layer will do. If using regular foil, a double layer is better to make sure it doesn’t break.)
4. Roll up the ends of the foil, so that the foil will hold the liquid.
5. Add the remaining ingredients, spreading out the lemon and garlic throughout the packet.
6. Bring together the open-topped sides of the packet, and loosely pinch them together in a few places. (Leave some spaces for steam to escape…)
7. If concerned about potential liquid leaks, place the whole foil packet into a large baking pan or tray.
8. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the fish is opaque throughout and flakes easily with a fork.
This recipe is: gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, shellfish-free, refined-sugar-free.
P.S. In the interest of bloggerly love, we’ve also posted this recipe over at Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesday post.