Poached bluefish salad

Poached bluefish salad is an easy meal to make, and it’s delicious, despite the bad rap often given to bluefish as table fare. (Photo by Jerry Dilsaver)

Bluefish have been disparaged as table fare for years, including by many fishermen that enjoy catching them. Yes, they have a stronger flavor, but every fish doesn’t need to be as mild as flounder. That would be boring. I grew up in a commercial fishing family at a time there wasn’t a market for bluefish, so we sold what the dealers would buy, and learned ways to prepare the rest. At times we caught a lot of bluefish. I’ve eaten them a bunch of different ways and most were good as long as they were properly cared for. This recipe is one of my favorite ways to prepare bluefish. It’s simple and it works. Even better, it can be tweaked just a little, several different ways, and will taste different.

I learned of the surprising ability of adding a little white vinegar to a brine to help dissolve blood out of meat and mellow a strong flavor at a young age. Then, as my personal tastes developed, I began spicing up the salad with jalapenos, assorted ground peppers and more. This recipe can be made as spicy or mellow as you like, and it’s a great way to enjoy a chilled meal on a warm summer evening. Many of our readers are mature enough (not old enough) to remember the old advertising slogan that “Everything’s great when it sits on a Ritz!” Enjoy this spooned onto your favorite crackers.

Poached bluefish salad

The preparation for this to be its best begins as soon as the first bluefish is caught. Take the time to make a light cut right behind the pectoral fins and a notch in the tail on both sides. Be careful not to cut so deep that you remove the fish’s head or tail. Fishery regulations require that any fish that has a size or number limit must be retained whole, so its species and length are easily determined. Once the fish has been bled, cover it completely with ice.

The second part of the preparation is when cleaning the fish to remove the skin and as much as possible of the red meat that runs down each side. Once cleaned, pack the fillets in ice until ready to begin the kitchen part of the preparation. Keeping the fillets cold helps with the flavor of this. If allowed to sit out and get warm, they will develop a stronger flavor.

Soaking bluefish in a vinegar brine is not about the brine, but about the vinegar. It breaks down any blood or heavy oils in the meat and makes the flavor milder. Removing this also gives the meat a lighter color. If a fillet looks better and tastes better, most of the battle of getting someone to try it is taken care of.

Poaching the fillets in the balsamic vinegar and water mixture also mellows them, and gives just a little of the balsamic vinegar flavor. This is a vinegar that is mixed with olive oils and such to use as a dip for bread, so it is a good flavor. This flavor can be made more prominent by using a higher ratio of balsamic vinegar in the mixture, but be careful as it will reach a point where it becomes stronger very quickly.


  • 1-pound bluefish fillets
  • 1/4 Cup medium sweet onion
  • 2 medium fine chopped jalapeno peppers
  • 2 TSP crushed garlic
  • 2/3 Cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 Cup chopped bread and butter pickles
  • Light mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Water
  • Crackers (I like Ritz and Triscuit)

Options: Substitute Wickles for the bread and butter pickles

Have Texas Pete Cha Sauce on the table for individual use.


On boat and at dock;

  1. As soon as a bluefish is caught, make a light cut right behind the pectoral fin and cut a notch where the tail joins the body. Do this on both sides and be careful not to remove the head or tail.
  2. Allow the fish to bleed for a few minutes and then pack it completely covered in ice.
  3. Once back at the dock or ramp, fillet the fish and remove the skin.
  4. Trim all the red and dark meat from the fillets.
  5. Put the fillets in a zip-lock bag and cover in ice.

Once in kitchen;

  1. Place the fillets in a light salt brine with several teaspoons of white vinegar, and soak for several hours in the refrigerator.
  2. Mince the onions and peppers, and chop the celery and pickles.
  3. Pour off the brine and rinse the fillets well.
  4. Lay the fillets in a pot and cover them with a mixture of 2 parts water and 1 part balsamic vinegar.
  5. Poach the fillets in the balsamic vinegar and water mixture. Cook until done, but not overdone.
  6. Flake the steaks into a bowl and use a fork to break them down finer.
  7. Add the onion, jalapeno, garlic, celery, pickles and 3 TBL light mayonnaise. Mix well.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste.  (I have begun to substitute Low Country Seasonings All-Purpose Seasoning Blend for the salt and part of the pepper, but I like pepper and usually add a little more.)
  9. Add more mayonnaise if needed. This should not need a lot, but you can add more to personal tastes.
  10. Refrigerate until time to serve.
  11. Serve on lettuce with your favorite crackers or pita chips.

Don’t tell anyone what the fish is until after they tell you how good it tastes.

Sautéed squash or corn on the cob is an excellent vegetable to serve with the salad. And to finish things off, Key Lime Pie is an excellent dessert.

The post “Poached bluefish salad” first appeared on CarolinaSportsman.com.

About Jerry Dilsaver 145 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., is a freelance writer, as well as a former national king mackerel champion fisherman. Readers are encouraged to send their favorite recipes and a photo of the completed dish to possibly be used in a future issue of the magazine. E-mail the recipes and photos to Jerry Dilsaver at captainjerry@captainjerry.com.

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