tripletail fillets

WaterLine photo by Alex Benard

You can get as fancy as you want with your recipes, but sometimes a basic preparation is just right.

Last week I got request from a client. They wanted me to get them some tripletail and then make a nice meal for them at their home in Boca Grande. I was able to get fresh tripletail from my local fish source, Cut Right Seafood in Englewood. The fish was super fresh, and I was excited about making a fantastic dinner out of these fillets.

I got home and had all these ideas going through my head about how I would prepare the fish. I first thought I’d blacken the fish and make some kind of salsa to go with it. Then I thought about making a stuffing to roll the fillets around and bake it. These types of preparation are impressive but they can hide the flavor of the fish.

The more I considered the quality of the fillets I had, the more I thought about just a little salt and hot pan. I decided to try just that while I was doing my prep before heading to Boca Grande to do the service. I got my sauté pan nice and hot, then I carefully placed a couple pieces of the tripletail in the pan and let it sear.

I know nonstick pans are very popular, but don’t use them other than for omelets (and I don’t make very many omelets, mostly because I’m not very good at making an omelet look like a chef-made omelet). I just wait for my sauté pan to get really hot, add the food and just wait. When it’s cooked, it will release itself from the pan and should have a roasted appearance and be golden brown in color.

After the tripletail was cooked and my girlfriend Alex and I tried the fish, I decided it was so good on its own that it didn’t need a sauce. The flavor is very mild and the texture reminded me of snapper but also felt a bit like swordfish too. I was very pleased with this fish with just salt and oil.

I encourage everyone to try some tripletail on its own and see what I’m talking about. You might even cook a piece of tripletail and a piece of snapper at the same time and taste them side by side. I think you will notice what I meant about it reminding me of other fish but confusing me at the same time.


I bronzed another small piece of the fillet while prepping to see how that would be, and it was also excellent. Bronzing is similar to blackening, but when you bronze fish you put the blackening seasoning on just one side, and you use oil to cook it instead of melted whole butter. Or at least that’s what I was taught and have been saying for years.

As with most mild white fish, tripletail is a good fish to do just about anything with. You could fry up some tripletail nuggets or even put it on your grill. Just make sure its very hot and don’t mess it up by trying to move it around on the grate.

Let it sit there a couple minutes, then use a two prong carving fork to stick between the grill grates and see if you can easily lift the fillet. If you can lift it, then turn the handle of the fork 45 degrees and set the fish back down on your grill. When you can turn it over, it should have nice grill marks on it.

You could also make a nice stew with the extra little pieces of the fillets. If I were making a stew from the scraps, I’d probably want to have a couple of oysters to add to the stew to make it a bit heartier.

I think you should try some fresh tripletail like I did and see how wonderful yet puzzling the texture is, and how good the flavor is with just a bit of salt. There’s a reason this is one of the most prized table fish in local waters. I just wish there were more of it to go around.

Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.

Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.

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