Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Delicious Little Fish

Red Mullet may not be at the top of your list when scouring the local fish market due to its irregularity, but if you happen to come by this fish in the display, that should certainly change.  Red Mullet, also sold as Rouget, are some of the tastiest fish that swim.  They are usually small in size, around 2-5 pieces make up a pound, but what they lack in size they make up for in flavor.  They are highly prized in the Mediterranean dating back to Roman times when the fish sold for extravagant amounts of money.

In those times the larger fish were fought over, but in modern times I have to recommend purchasing the smaller fish for their fine flavor.  Rouget are rich in fat with delicate white meat that resembles great shellfish in flavor.  Cooked whole, they can deliver flavor profiles similar to sweet shrimp, oysters, and good scallops.  The best way to prepare rouget is to cook them whole, whether you are baking, sauteing, or pan-frying.  Once cooked they pair well with onions, lemon, garlic, and either olive oil or pepper oil.  The liver is quite tasty so do not be afraid to cook them in their entirety with only the scales removed.  If you are doing fillets, a gentle saute works best, crisping the skin is always a fan favorite.

When selecting whole fish to purchase look for clear eyes and good color.  When the rouget's color has faded from bright red to pale orange it is usually an indicator that the fish has passed its prime.  The scales should also appear tight and the fish should be firm.  Do not purchase any fish that have faded gills or give off a spoiled odor.  Fresh mullet should have a seaweed smell, like the ocean.  Red mullet from the Mediterranean is the most desired, but North African fish are an acceptable replacement.  Try to avoid red mullet from the warmer waters such as Brazil, these fish tend to have a less palatable flavor, softer flesh, and parasite problems.  Take a chance on these delicious small fish the next time you come across them, they are truly a special item with intense flavor and a great way to change up your seafood routine.

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