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Throw a Honolulu Fish Party

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Grilled opah with jalapenos

© Marcia Kiesel
Grilled opah with jalapenos.

I had a chance to taste various Hawaiian fish last week, sent to us by Honolulu Fish Company which was shipped to the Food & Wine test kitchen. We needed to test a recipe for our "Chefs Know Best" column that called for opah, a large, beautiful Pacific fish. I also decided I should  develop some recipes using opah and a few other varieties that the company offers.
The Honolulu Fish Company offers a unique variety of Hawaiian fish, freshly caught and delivered overnight. The company integrates environmentally conscious practices of no net fishing (hook-caught wild fish only), and all fish are of proper maturity with no fish waste. (All fish parts are recycled into agricultural supplements or distributed to local food processors.) There are no bycatch issues, so no other species are harmed.

Here is an opportunity to try a selection of delectable, unusual fish for $20.00 per pound plus shipping. That is less than many varieties sold here. Granted the shipping wasn't cheap but if you invest with other fish-fanatic friends, it turns out to be a rare and wonderful experience.

Okay, onto the tasty part. Opah was our number one favorite. Even when cooked through, it was the most juicy, rich-tasting and melt-in-your-mouth fish. Maybe the best fish ever! We also loved the emperor black cod, or sable. This black cod was properly rich but slightly lighter on the palate than west coast black cod and the flake of the flesh fell into thick, silky slices. We also tried the striped marlin which had a gorgeous orangey, flesh that was very mild and lean.

I found certain methods and ingredients that work best with each fish. The opah can be seared on one side only, close to sashimi, serve with jalapeño slices macerated in soy and lemon juice. It is fantastic just sautéed in butter, letting the butter brown, then adding a few capers, white wine or even kernels of fresh corn. It grills beautifully. Top it with sautéed garlic, anchovy and some hot pepper, adding parsley leaves at the last moment to slightly wilt. The black cod pan-fries nicely. I loved the richness with some sautéed shallot and rehydrated porcini, deglazed with sherry. Serve with a garlic aioli on top. Killer. Or pan-fry, remove, and add little neck clams with a pinch of saffron and garlic. Off the heat, swirl in some butter. The marlin made an exquisite, very clean-tasting ceviche. It was made with a dressing of soy, lime and sesame oil and was tossed with tomato, avocado and toasted sesame seeds. I served it with crisp rice crackers.

There are many fish varieties to choose from and availability depends on seasonality but it ranges from several types of tuna, groupers, marlin, snapper and swordfish to special Hawaiian species besides the opah: kaku (barracuda), walu (escolar) and rainbow runner (a hamachi). Minimum orders are for twenty pounds. So gather a group, divide up the catch and have a unforgettable fish feast. Check out the website: you can drool over the close-ups of glistening hunks of each fish being expertly carved.

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