Notes From the Island Fishmonger: February

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It’s mahi-mahi, tuna to the rescue

By Scott Dolan

Due to fishing closures in the Gulf, which is causing an increase in price and a decline of availability of red snapper and local grouper, I want to tell you about some terrific alternatives for very good and less expensive local fish. Big Water Fish Market will have both the snapper and grouper, but corvina and tripletail are fantastic substitutes if you want to save a few bucks.

Meanwhile, both mahi-mahi and tuna are at an all-time low price and are expected to stay that way until Easter.

Mahi-mahi means “very strong.” I wish I could take credit for this nickname but it came from the Hawaiian Islands. A nickname includes my favorite of “the El Dorado” and in the Keys they call this fish a Dolphin. This is a surface-dwelling, ray-finned fish that thrives in offshore tropical waters.

As a part-time fisherman and golfer, this catch and a hole-in-one remain on my bucket list. Hopefully one day I will be able to tell you a fish tale about the giant Key West mahi-mahi that I caught but if I tell you that story in the next few months, it will be a true fish tale!

Mahi-mahi is distinguishable by dazzling bright colors when fresh. Golden on the sides and bright blues and greens on the back. Females are usually smaller than males and have a rounded head, while males have prominent foreheads protruding well above the body.

Mahi-mahi are swift and acrobatic and one of the fastest fish in the ocean, which explains why it made my bucket list. It feeds on squid, shrimp and crabs.

The extra-dark, lean meat is firm textured with a solid flake and moist with a slightly sweet flavor. Mahi-mahi is great on the grill and very popular blackened and served with a tropical salsa or in fish tacos.

Amberjack is a great substitute for Mahi-mahi.

Here are the basic ingredients to make blackened mahi-mahi tacos, served with a tropical salsa (serves four):

  • 16 flour or corn tortillas
  • Fresh chopped cilantro
  • Limes
  • Slaw
  • Pico or salsa with or without a tropical fruit such as pineapple, mango or papaya
  • Siesta Sand blackening seasoning (available to purchase only at Big Water Fish Market)
  • 2 pounds of grilled mahi-mahi

Another great deal this spring is tuna. In my opinion, the only way to eat it is raw or seared.  In most cases the Big Water Fish Market customer is always right, but it is definitely looked down upon to order this fish any other way than rare in this seafood haven.

But not all tuna is the same. Most common types of tuna found at Big Water Fish Market is the yellow fin tuna found in deep sub-tropical waters, blue fin tuna, and ahi tuna from Hawaii. Another well-known tuna is the albacore that is commonly used for canned tuna. This U.S. tuna is a No. 1-graded fish because of its good color and high fat content. In order for tuna to be considered a sashimi grade fish in the U.S., the whole fish or loin needs to be flash frozen immediately on the boat and stored for 48 hours then inspected to ensure our safety to eat it raw. In all there are 15 different varieties of tuna species.

Tuna is super versatile and a trendy fish, first proven when sushi became popular in the U.S. in the ‘80s. Then tuna tartare was introduced in upscale restaurants and recently tuna poke was made popular in Hawaii and has hit the local seafood scenes.

At Big Water Fish Market, we feature “Tuna Tuesday” where kitchen manager Jay Hamilton puts on a tuna clinic. With help from the staff, he puts out mouthwatering seared tuna specials such as tuna tacos served with seaweed salad and freshly made Nico’s Pico. He also serves up a blackened seared tuna plate.

A common question is do you really catch tuna in the Gulf? The answer is yes! It’s more often caught on the Atlantic Ocean side because of the deeper waters but it’s still a prized catch in the deeper waters of the Gulf. I can confirm this fact as one of our best days of offshore fishing ever was when my fishing buddies and I caught a couple of tuna about 36 miles offshore. And even better yet was the ride home where we filled our bellies with fresh tuna sashimi.

Whether it’s fresh or in the can, not only is tuna a protein powerhouse but it’s packed with important vitamins and minerals such as A, D, B6, iron, and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Plus, it’s low in fat and calories.

A whopping 90% of the U.S. population doesn’t eat enough fish. To get the most health benefits from your diet, you should be eating at least 8 ounces of seafood a week. Anywhere from eating sushi or seared tuna, to making a can of Bumblebee tuna salad at home, will get the job done.

So, come and get your seafood on at the Big Water Fish Market where I highly recommend the tuna tacos and the mahi melt.

Live well….eat fish

Scott Dolan
Author: Scott Dolan

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