I found butterfish! I spent a long time not even really knowing what butterfish was. I’d run into it from time to time at sushi restaurants, where it would either be amazing (silky and actually tasted like sublime butter) or not (usually still partially frozen, poorly sliced, etc.). Apparently the real name of butterfish is stromateidae, or at least that’s the type of fish it is. Seachoice.org actually has a grand total of zero info on it! It does have two ‘butterfish’ listings but after some other research, it turns out it’s not the same fish. The butterfish we sometimes find in sushi restaurants is related to, but not the same as, black cod, or sablefish. Apparently it’s also connected to Chilean seabass.
It’s very high in fatty oils, making it taste very buttery, hence the appeal. I was at a local grocery store where I would normally never ever buy seafood when I saw these little guys. They were small and silver and those are two of the big sustainability fish factors. Bigger than sardines or smelt, mind you, but small enough that I figured I should give it a try. They were cheap! Rarely can you find these guys on sushi restaurant menus, but maybe it’s just that they’re not widely available, not that they cost a fortune.
So I took them home and prepared them very simply. I brushed 3 with melted butter, salt and pepper and another three with a tomato-based chili paste from the organic farmer at McGill’s Organic Campus. Then I let them marinate for about 30 minutes and then just grilled them for about 3 minutes per side (6 minutes total in the Foreman Grill).
They tasted like…firm-flesh white fish. They weren’t particularly buttery. The melted butter I’d added didn’t really soak into the fish, even though I’d scored them with a sharp knife so that the marinade would make it past the skin.
I think a longer marinating stage would have helped. I also think a miso marinade overnight in the fridge would be amazing, but I generally think that for any fish. The chile paste was fine, but nothing really special. The best part of the fish was how the skin crisped up from the grilling. I managed to cook the fish nicely, so it fell away from all the little bones without a whole lot of trouble or effort.
Some of the fish got added to the pizza I made (to come) and lent a nice, delicate flavour to the spicy tomato sauce I used. All in all, not a bad fish, and a much better choice than sole or tilapia. I hate tilapia. It’s almost as if I can see the parasites from the farming.
The biggest achievement of this story was figuring out what the heck butterfish was, since it actually gave the name, stromateidae, on the packaging. Score one for the sub-par grocery store.