Cooking Fish Dishes-Pleasing (Picky) Fishermen

Susanna Pope- Island Jane Magazine

Being the wife of a fisherman, you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to cook up a fresh catch quite often.  So often, in fact, that you can get in a bit of a rut with the ‘fish recipes’ that you prepare.  The same old stuff doesn’t cut it anymore and family members become tired of those same standby recipes over and over.

It can be especially hard to please my husband, Jerry.  I think that is because by the time he is about to eat a ‘fish dish’, he has caught it, cleaned it, fileted, bagged, and brought it home, and he is just totally over that fish when he picks up his fork, no matter what you do to it.  Whether its beer batter fried mahi mahi, sesame crusted wahoo, tuna noodle casserole, mahi fish tacos, blackened wahoo, or tuna sashimi, it all gets to be the same old thing (how spoiled can we be?!?). 

This time of year is fun for fisherman (and fisherwives) because season is in full swing, the weather is getting nicer, and almost any species of fish can be caught (and cooked) in this early part of spring.  Any given night, Jerry could bring home wahoo, dolphin (mahi mahi), or tuna, amongst others, for me to cook up.

On a recent evening, after a day of trolling 15 miles offshore, he brought home a couple of pounds of blackfin tuna they had caught that day on their charter with the High Class Hooker.  Blackfin is the kind of tuna most frequently caught in the Keys, and the ‘afternoon tuna bite’, as we call it, is usually pretty good still this time of year.  Whenever the charter guests are unable to take and eat all the fish that they catch on a trip by themselves, we are very fortunate to get the remainder of the fish. 

This particular night, my parents were in town, so I was thinking of them as well, while I tried to come up with an idea for dinner.  After going through my Pinterest board of ‘Fish Dishes to Try’ for ideas, I was still unsure of what to make.  Then, my Dad brought up an idea for a warm tuna salad we had eaten in Paris on a family trip, maybe 20 years ago, called Nicoise Salad.  Now, I knew that my parents would love the blackfin prepared that way, but Jerry probably would not, because it sounds fancy.  It is, however, easy to make and also looks and tastes fancy (YAY!) – so I decided to make it and figured Jerry could deal with it if he didn’t like it.  When he took the first bite of salad, he gave an “Oh, Wow!”  I was shocked that he liked it.  In fact, he said it was the only (fully cooked) tuna dish that he remembered truly enjoying; I had hit the dinner jackpot!! Tuna Nicoise was a long shot in my book of recipes my husband would like, but it turned out to be a new ‘old standby’.

Some people say that the way to a man’s heart is through cooking.  I know that fishing is the way to a fisherman’s heart (obviously).  If you go fish with them and cook up the fish in a fun new way, they’ll be hooked… along with anyone else at your table!

Fisherwife’s Tuna Nicoise Salad 
Wahoo would be a delicious substitute!

  • 1 pound small potatoes (fingerling or red), cut in 1” chunks
  • 1-2 pounds thin green beans, trimmed
  • 6 large eggs – hardboiled and sliced
  • ¼ cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 (heaping) tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 (or 2) tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 pound tuna, cut into large chunks, poached
  • ½ cup nicoise olives (or Kalamata)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Make vinaigrette. Whisk vinegar, shallot, mustard, herbs, ½ tsp salt, and pepper to taste, in a bowl. Then whisk in olive oil slowly, until emulsified. Set aside.
  2. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan covered with cold, salted water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook 5 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain and place in a medium bowl. Pour ¼ cup of dressing over the warm potatoes and set aside.
  3. In the same saucepan, put about 2” of salted water. Cook on medium-high heat until water is boiling and then add the green beans; cook 3 minutes, or until tender-crisp. Drain immediately, rinse with cold water.  Set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, fill a larger pot with a few inches of heavily salted water.  Place on medium-high heat and add tuna pieces. Once the water is gently boiling, cook approximately 10 minutes until cooked through. Drain, set aside to cool slightly.
  5. Build the salad. Place the green beans as a bed on the bottom of a shallow serving bowl. Add tuna chunks and potatoes as the next layer. Then add tomatoes, eggs, and olives last. Top entire salad with the remaining dressing.
Susanna Pope grew up spending a lot of time on the Chesapeake Bay where she developed a love for the water. She’s lived in the Lower Keys for four years and loves exploring, fishing, photographing, and living the Keys lifestyle.

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