Notes from the Siesta Key Island Fishmonger

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Siesta South Seafood

Growing up in Michigan I was not as well versed in the knowledge of saltwater fish. I knew about Pike, Whitefish, Walleye and Catfish as most of my fishing career was spent on a lake in Upstate NY. It was not until I moved to South Florida as an adult that I even heard of this elusive and indigenous Florida Hogfish. And not until I actually started selling fish for a living did I know how popular this fish is. The Hogfish is little known to those outside of the Gulf Coast waters stretching from Sarasota to the Florida Keys.

Hogfish is the “FILET MIGNON OF THE SEA” says Siesta Key Marina partner and restaurateur Maurice “MO” Dentici.  Mo is owner of Spearfish Grille which is located at Siesta Key Marina and is a purveyor of relaxed marina dining. It is also one of only two places on the Southside of Siesta Key that consistently serve up the delicate white flaky Hogfish meat. Spearfish opened in March of 2018 and has been a welcome addition to the Siesta seafood scene. Not only is co-owner Mo and chef James serving up the fresh gulf “Hogfish free dive” that is a tender & sweet gulf Hogfish fresh off the spear then lightly grilled and topped with ginger, lime, butter, cilantro and fire roasted peppers but Spearfish Grille’s interior is just as special. Designed by Marina owners this quaint marina restaurant is decorated with refurbished wood from the docks of Siesta Key marina and has outdoor seating.

BIG WATER FISH MARKET & RESTAURANT is also located on the Southside of Siesta Key. The original Big Water Fish Market also serves it up right. Like I said, this fish is hard to come by and most places cannot put this fish on the menu because they can’t guarantee a consistent inventory. Chef Aaron of Big Water Fish Market does have it on the menu and serves it with his own honey Siracha cream sauce with a steamed seasonal veggie medley as well as my favorite which is the Hogfish Sundown which is Big Water’s version of a Jamaican fish dish named Run Down. This tasty Big Water entrée is a grilled Hogfish filet topped with a spicy coconut cream sauce and served with grilled vegetables.

“I love the unflattering name,” says Carlyle Veale, manager of Big Water Fish Market. “The look of this fish is where its name comes from with a hog-like snout and man I love the taste.” It is hard to even keep this fish in stock as once it hits the retail fish counters or restaurant menu this delicate, mild fish flies out the door. I would describe this fish as the perfect combination of flavor and texture because they are sweeter than Grouper, flakey like a Cod and as rich as Scallops.

When I say this iconic fish is mild tasting I mean it. When asked to describe the flavor by my customers, I either tell them it’s like biting into a delicious cloud from heaven or it’s the Filet Mignon of the sea. This is a great fish to eat whole (baked or fried) and it is also delicious when served as a filet with a sauce such as a lemon butter caper sauce like a francaise or piccata style.

Hogfish is a bit more expensive than the other fish due to the issue of supply and demand. Another reason this fish is a bit rare is because the Hogfish will not bite a hook and line. It’s a smart fish. This fish actually has to be spearfished. The best Florida fish mongers have a spearfisherman with a steady shot on the payroll. A missed shot with a speargun can result in damaged flesh.

Here are 5 facts about Hogfish that you probably do not know:

  1. Hogfish is not from the Snapper family as most people think. It is actually part of the Wrasse family and is closely related to a parrot fish more than a snapper.
  2. Hogfish uses its elongated pig like snout to rummage and graze for crustaceans that are buried in the ocean floor. Because it has such a healthy shellfish diet the fish tastes clean with a hint of crab flavor.
  3.  Juvenile Hogfish start out as female and then become male as they mature.
  4. Males tend to be more intensely colored with a signature black spot behind the pectoral fins and females are pale grey or brown in color.
  5. Hogfish have been recorded to live up to 11 years.

Easy Hogfish Picatta Recipe:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season your 4-ounce Hogfish filets (total of 2 pounds of fish) with Deli Dust (available at Big Water Fish Market) and dredge in flour. Sauté the fish in oil for about 4 minutes, flipping half way through. Remove the fish to a platter. Deglaze the pan with ¼ cup white wine whisking for about 1 minute. Add 2 juiced lemons and 2 tablespoons of capers and stir. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk away to incorporate and bring the sauce together. Pour your sauce onto the fish and garnish with fresh chopped parsley and a lemon wedge. Bon appetite.

Live well….Eat Fish
Scott Dolan
Big Water Fish Market
6641 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key – South location, 941-554-8101
217 Avenida Madera,  – North location, 941-552-8826

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