We were pleasantly surprised to discover that New Hampshire Community Seafood has a weekly seafood share with a pick-up in Concord, NH and promptly signed up to see what they would bring. Truly fresh seafood is hard to come by when you don't live on the coast and so having a weekly delivery of freshly caught fish seemed like a no-brainer. We've hesitated over farm CSA's tempted but unwilling to pull the trigger because in PA they mostly required us to drive somewhere out of the way once a week to pick up our stuff but Concord is 10-15 minutes from home and we go there on a regular basis for shopping and banking and whatnot, so picking up mid-day once a week seemed do-able. And to be fair, they make it easy. It's only an 8-week commitment, you can choose the amount of seafood that works for you (we got 2 pounds a week), and you get 2 free passes, so that if you know in advance you won't be able to get your delivery you can cancel it and get a refund for that week. They also send out a weekly newsletter telling you all about the fish you will be receiving so you can plan ahead for dinner. Win-win.
This week was Acadian Redfish, small skin-on fillets that had been scaled and cleaned for us. They warned that might be a few stray scales and pin bones, and there were, but they were easy to find and cut off with scissors or a small, sharp knife. Half the battle in cooking is knowing what to watch out for. These are not the famous blackened redfish of the South, down in the Gulf they fish for red drum. These small tender fillets reminded me a little bit of red mullet. Back in the day we used to frequent a Mexican joint in Damariscotta, ME that made fish tacos with fried redfish fillets so we were looking forward to playing with these. In fact tacos were the main recommendation for cooking these fish.
When we got the redfish back to our kitchen we gave it a 10 minutes soak in a 5% salt brine. This technique is in both of our books and we routinely use it with any fish we bring home. It rinses away any surface proteins and debris, slightly denatures the surface layer of the fish, and reduces the coagulation of albumen when you cook the fish. In layman's terms that means that the fish stays fresh a bit longer in the refrigerator and cooks up cleanly without a lot of white gunk on the surface of the meat. It also adds a bit of seasoning but we don't leave the fish in there long enough for it to become salty. After brining, we patted the fillets dry, and checked them for stray scales and bones. We left the cleaned fish on a towel on a sheet pan, covered them with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge until dinnertime.
We dredged the filets in potato starch and shallow fried them in rice bran oil. They curled lightly in the hot oil and came out lightly golden and crisp. The redfish fillets were juicy and rich, flaking easily as we bit through the crisp coating. They were like perfect little fish fingers and begged to be eaten out of hand right off the rack. Truth be told, a few disappeared before they ever made it to the table.
Alex wanted tacos and I wanted to focus on the fish so we prepared a meal that could go either way. There was a saute of green beans and swiss chard stems in a garlicky vinaigrette, guacamole, sliced heirloom cherry tomatoes, hot sauce and warm tortillas. Alex and Amaya happily built and devoured tacos while Bill and I ate fish and vegetables. And well, I made a mini-taco at the end. I just couldn't resist.