Our annual survey of seafood in Southeast Louisiana this year counts down the 33 best seafood species enjoyed in our restaurants, seafood markets, and homes. For the full survey so far, click here. Or use the links at the bottom to move up and down the list.
Tripletail is a fish found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. It also swims up the Gulf Stream and into the Atlantic, where fishermen in the Carolinas sometimes catch it. There it's better known by its other name--blackfish.
But "tripletail" has a better ring, doesn't it? That arises from the positions of the dorsal and anal fins, which are about the same size and shape as the tail fin. So they give the illusion that the fish has three tails.
It's an exceptional eating fish. Unfortunately, there's no mass commercial catch of it. Because it's either line-caught or turns up as a bycatch in shrimp nets, it's not widely or regularly available. (Otherwise, it would turn up higher on this list.) Only restaurants that actively work the market every day buy it. Finding tripletail on a menu means a) you're in a pretty good place, and 2) this is your lucky day.
Although tripletail is a moderately big fish--some ten inches wide and about a foot and a half long--its fillets remind me a lot of those of the much smaller speckled trout. In fact, I find the flavor similar, too.
As with trout, tripletail seems to be best cooked in the saute pan and served with a sauce on the buttery end of the spectrum. It can also be blackened or bronzed. (K-Paul's used to have some fun by calling it "reddened blackfish.") I don't think I'd grill it; the flaky texture makes it fall apart on a grill. If that happens, make a quick courtbouillon.
Tripletail With Sizzling Crabmeat and Herbs
The excitement in this dish comes from the ability of clarified butter to be made extremely hot without burning. Hot enough to sizzle anything it's poured over. The butter looks harmless when you bring it to the table, but spoon it over the crabmeat and fresh herbs, and it crackles and sizzles, with drama and a wonderful aroma. This also works on a steak.
- 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (about half a bunch)
- 1 Tbs. capers, chopped
- 2 tsp. chopped fresh garlic
- 1 dash Worcestershire
- Juice of 1/4 lemon
- 4 oz. white crabmeat
- 4 8-oz. fillets tripletail (or trout, redfish, drum, sheepshead, or other white fish)
- 1/2 cup clarified butter
Preheat the broiler and broiler pan.
1. Combine the parsley, capers, garlic, and crabmeat in a small bowl. Sprinkle with the Worcestershire and lemon juice and toss to distribute the ingredients equally.
2. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper. Broil about four inches from the flame until the slightest hint of browning is seen around the edges. Check the fish to see if it's cooked in the center of the thickest part (it should be). If not, broil just a minute longer or less.
3. Place the fish fillet on the serving plate. Top with a small pile (not a scattering) of the crabmeat-and-herb mixture.
4. In the smallest saucepan you have, heat the clarified butter till a flake of parsley immediately sizzles in it. Spoon the butter while still very hot over the fish and its topping, which will sizzle when the butter hits it. It's most dramatic to do this at the table, but be very careful: the heat of the butter presents a burning hazard if it gets splashed.
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