When chef Tony Maws of Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Craigie on Main thinks summer, his thoughts always turn to bluefish. “People look down on it,” he says. “It’s a darker-flesh fish, it’s inexpensive at about $10 a pound and, if it’s not very fresh and well-prepared, it can taste overly fishy. But when it’s fresh it’s delicious.” What’s more, bluefish are especially abundant in summer and Maws, a Martha’s Vineyard fisherman, loves them in conjunction with using the grill. “It tastes good with strong flavors, smoke, even bacon,” he says. “It has good natural oils, so it won’t get dry when you smoke it. It’s also great with a cold beer, or – I’m not afraid to say I drink it – a good rosé.”
Maws’s favorite bluefish preparation for summer is rillettes, a spin on a French pork spread that can work like tuna salad on crusty bread. It’s not too involved a recipe, and if you can’t smoke your own fish, you can buy it smoked for just a few bucks more, especially in-season. “Bluefish runs from southern Maine down to the Mid-Atlantic,” Maws says. “It’s a true symbol of summertime.”
2 lbs smoked local bluefish, picked of bones, and skin and blood line removed (Maws smokes fresh bluefish on a grill, but store-bought pre-smoked fish is fine).
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ bulb fennel, diced small
1 stalk celery, diced small
2 shallots, diced small
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/8 tsp high-quality saffron
1 bouquet garni of bay leaf, parsley, thyme, tarragon
2 tbsp sour cream
Juice from 1 lemon
Fine sea salt
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
Add all the vegetables, spices, and bouquet garni.
Season with fine sea salt and cover, sweating out the vegetables until tender, approximately 5–8 minutes.
Remove bouquet garni and transfer the remaining ingredients to a blender.
Blend on high speed until smooth.
Let cool and mix in the sour cream.
Add as desired to the picked smoked bluefish.
Finish with some lemon juice and serve with baguette or crackers.