Monday, January 26, 2015

Crevalle Jack - Good eating?

Crevalle Jack
Jureles, Pámpanos, Jurel Toro or just Toro in Mexlico

Four guys in a boat way too small for them brought this in in front of Serenitas restaurant in west Melaque yesterday. They said it was out by the rocky point and I'm sure they didn't go around the point into the swells in that boat. First one I've seen up close and was surprised by the dark read meat. I've heard that most red meat fish are too strong a flavor and usually only made into ceviche. Not so with this article though he talked a real chef into cooking it for him.

Ask anyone who disparages the flavor of crevalle if they ever have eaten it. Likely they are just passing on a rumor started by some fish lover long ago, so he could have all the jacks for himself.

The first thing Vollen (Chef) did was appraise the fish for texture, noting the flesh was very dense, not unlike tuna. He deboned each already ribless fillet by cutting out the pin bones almost all fish have running down the center from the head end, toward the tail. The bones are more easily felt with a fingertip than seen. For a whole-fillet presentation, the pin bones can be cut out, leaving a V-shaped notch. Or the fillet can be cut in half lengthwise before the bones are sliced away. Vollen notched two fillets and cut the others in half.

Each piece of fish was seasoned with sea salt and white pepper. The first then was dredged in flour and sautéed for a minute or two per side in vegetable oil that was just beginning to smoke from high heat. In compulsive chef fashion, Vollen also threw in some smoked tomato meats and roasted red peppers, which of course were absolutely delicious, but which did not appreciably alter the flavor of the fish. Then with a big glug of white table wine (a California chardonnay), he lit up the whole mess like Disney World on the Fourth of July, deglazing the dish until the liquid was reduced to a glorious sauce.

You are of course saying sure, the last thing the cat dragged in would have tasted good if it was gussied up like that. That jack sure did, even by Vollen’s standards, but that was not the half of the experiment.

The next fillet was simply tossed on a 90,000-B.T.U. grill that etched dark brown crisscrosses into each side, while leaving clear juice in the center. There was no stopping Vollen and his sauces, one of which was purée of prickly pears he had plucked from a cactus patch outside his back door. The artfully drizzled sauce was as vibrant to taste as it was brilliant to behold, but it served as it should have—a mere complement to the delicious flavor of the grilled jack, which we agreed was even better than that sautéed.

I ate the whole fillet without coming up for air, as I had done the first, after allowing Vollen a taste. For his finale, he deep-fried the remaining pieces after they had been dipped in egg wash and breaded in cornflakes.

“Like everyone does crunchy grouper,” Vollen said, “everyone” being the competition in his tier of the restaurant trade.

With the crunchy jacks he provided two dressings—a homemade rémoulade and a mango mayonnaise—either of which was to die for if your arteries were not up to the task. Fortunately, I was too stuffed to do more than taste the combinations, both of which were splendid, as by that time we expected. What was unexpected was how unbelievably good the remaining seven pieces of fried jack were after I doggy-bagged them and ate them cold, one by one, straight out of my refrigerator over the following two days.

Eat that Jack Article


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