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Tilefish: NJ's sleeper fish

The Golden Tilefish is perfect for your next menu or fish purchase.


New Jersey Golden Tilefish from Viking Village in Barnegat Light
New Jersey Tilefish

The Golden Tilefish (Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps) is found along the outer continental shelf of the east coast United States and are fished primarily in the spaces between the Hudson and Veatch canyons, miles offshore in the Atlantic.  Longliners out of Barnegat Light New Jersey fish for this species seasonally and its popularity on menus seems to increase as time marches on and the prices of popular fish species go sky high.  Sometimes called “the clown of the sea” golden tilefish are beautiful, iridescent creatures with spots of blue and green on their backs as well as yellows and gold.  Golden tilefish are easily distinguishable from other tilefish species (most notably grey tilefish) because of the large crest found on their heads.  They are capable of living very long lives with some fisherman reporting fish as old as fifty years.  Their diet consists of bottom dwelling creatures like shrimp, crabs, clams, snails, worms and sea cucumbers.  Tilefish live in relatively deep water ranging anywhere from 250 feet to 1500 feet consequently making them a species that's existed under the radar of food fads and summertime sport fisherman looking to catch fish on the weekend.


Culinarily speaking, the Golden tile fish is a perfect choice for chefs and home cooks.  The fish is inexpensive, especially when compared to more popular species like tunas and bass.  The flesh of the tilefish is white, flaky, fatty and buttery.  When seared properly, the flesh forms a golden brown crust of crunchy, crispy Maillard deliciousness.  The taste is light, fresh and juicy in the mouth due to the fish’s fat content and its ability to retain moisture.  The clean skeletal remains from filleting are wonderful for stocks and sauces and can even be grilled on the plancha and served like a “rack of ribs”. I've yet to sell a Tilefish skeleton to a customer but I'm sure it would be an instant hit because it's always the favorite chef snack while prepping for service.  The cheeks, heads and bellies are also wonderful and are best served as crispy fried bits in tacos. They can also be utilized in different preparations I will share in other ecipes in the future.


Tilefish Skin and Scales


I've been experimenting recently with various preparations using the skin and scales of the Tilefish. When scaled, the skin crisps in a pan wonderfully and has one of the best textures of any fish skin I've eaten to date. In my opinion tilefish is best served skin on but I'm biased and I'm definitely a sucker for crispy skin. I'm researching an interesting technique in which hot oil is poured over tilefish scales and instantly puffs the scales into a crispy fish scale "Chicharron" but I haven't perfected it yet. Texturally the scales are still a bit off-putting so I will continue to experiment and develop the recipe until I can write it down with confidence and get consistent results (there are way more variables at play than I initially thought).


Tilefish Skeleton New Jersey
Tilefish Skeleton


Tilefish: Spring Vegetables, Pickled Rhubarb Buerre Blanc


Ingredients

  • 4 each 6oz filet Golden Tilefish

  • 3 TBSP. neutral oil for sauteeing

  • Kosher salt for seasoning fish and vegetables

  • FOR THE VEGETABLES:

  • 0.5 cups shelled, blanched English peas

  • 0.5 cups shelled, blanched fava beans

  • 0.5 cups blanched, chopped asparagus

  • ¼ cup brunoise Flavor Enhancer Yum YUM Shallots

  • 1 TBSP. unsalted butter

  • FOR THE RHUBARB BUERRE BLANC:

  • 3 TBSP. Pickled Rhubarb Vinegar (from the pickled rhubarb)

  • 2 TBSP. dry white wine

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

  • 8 TBSP. cold butter, cut into cubes

  • TO FINISH:

  • 1 spoonful pickled rhubarb pieces for garnish

  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil for finishing

  • Pea shoots or lava leaves for garnish


DIRECTIONS:


Prepare your oven first by preheating to 350F. Place tile fish filets on paper towels to keep dry and season with kosher salt.

  1. Heat oven ready saute pan over medium high heat. Pour 2TBSP. neutral sautéing oil in pan. When hot, place tilefish pieces (internal facing side) down in pan and sear over high heat. Add more oil to the pan if needed because tilefish needs more oil than other fish to saute properly. Once you see the pieces of the fish touching the pan turn opaque and brown, put entire pan into the oven. The fish will finish cooking in the oven and will take roughly 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of your filet.

  2. In a small sauce pan, combine pickled rhubarb vinegar and dry white wine and bring to a boil. Reduce this mixture by half, then add heavy cream to the sauce pan. Bring the mixture back to a boil and reduce by half another time. Once the mixture has reduced, remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the piece of butter to the mixture while whisking with another hand. Continue whisking thew cold butter into the hot reduction until the entire quantity of butter is melted and emulsified into the mixture. Season the sauce with salt and keep in a warm place until ready to serve and fish finishes cooking.

  3. In a medium saute pan bring a half a cup of water to a boil then add 1/4 cup of flavor enhancer yum yum shallots to a pan. Add your pre blanched vegtables to the pan next and allow everything to heat up and get hot. Season the mixture with salt and when hot enough, remove from the heat and toss butter throughout the vegetables to coat evenly.

  4. Remove fish from the oven when barely cooked through. Place vegetable mixture in bowl and finish with extra virgin olive oil, a fresh squeeze of lemon juice and flaky salt. Place your tilefish filet on top of the vegetables and finish with your butter sauce.


Pan Seared Tilefish Rhubarb Buerre Blanc
Pan Seared Tilefish


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