Butterfish ~

Butterfish (Peprilus triacanthus) is often seen in our traps, but I’m having some trouble getting the right name for the right fish. One thing for sure, I’ve always known it as butterfish, was taught it while observing as butterfish. But it seems the fish has a whole bunch of regional names in the northeast, as dollarfish, shiner, skipjacks, sheepshead or harvestfish. So for this one while I do more research I’m going to give you three great links:

How to cook it (from Elspeth Hay’s article in Edible Cape Cod Summer 2010)

Elspeth Hay came out to the traps last year for Edible Cape Cod. Her story includes a fantastic recipe for frying up a butter(fish that I tried last week, and she was right, the tail was the best part.

Before I left the docks, I paid Ernie for a few pounds of butterfish. At home my husband showed me how to clean them: cut diagonally from the back of the head toward the belly, slanting back, toward the tail. This takes off the head and opens the body cavity, then you swipe the cavity out with your fingers and rinse out the guts. The bones and the tail stay in—the bones pull out easily with one clean tug once the fish is cooked, and the crispy tail is, in my opinion, the very best part.This recipe serves 4.Ingredients:
2/3 cup cornmeal
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
12 butterfish, gutted and cleanedMethod:

Toss together the cornmeal, flour, and salt and pepper in a shallow pan big enough to hold a single fish. Heat up equal parts of butter and olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet. Wait until the pan and the fats are very hot, then coat the fish with the cornmeal mixture and put the fish in the skillet. Cook for roughly 2 minutes, or until it turns a crispy golden brown. Flip the fish and cook another 30 seconds on the second side. Eat at once.

On the history of it:

For those interested in the importance of this little fish, please have a look at JP Lee’s wonderful story called the “Fish that built a port.”

and finally, sustainability with an introduction to a great cooking partnership in RI – chefs working to create dishes using sustainable underutilized fish.


I promise when I get out to Captain Ernie, maybe he can tell me more…..in the meantime anyone with more info – please let me know!

Sustainable Eating

And found an interesting collective of chefs from Rhode Island working on developing a market for underutilized fish  in Eating with the Ecosystem….. a great resource for information on fish caught in three of our Northeast fishing waters, Georges Bank, the Gulf of Maine and Southern New England.

and finally – beautiful pictures of fried butterfish, at Happy Jack Eats; I have no problem eating with hands either.

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