NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — There’s a new fish in town.
Called barramundi, the fish wasn’t cooked up in some scientist’s laboratory — it comes from Australia, the land down under.
But this Aussie fish is new to New Englanders. It made its way here thanks to a western Massachusetts fish farm that has made the fish more affordable and allows it to make its way to local markets and restaurants without going halfway across the world.
“It couldn’t get any fresher,” said Scott Pelletier, executive chef at Evenfall restaurant in Haverhill.
Pelletier is a big fan of barramundi, and prepares it pan-seared in a lobster nage (a sauce made from lobster stock and butter).
“It’s gone over very well,” said Pelletier. “It started very slow at first.”
Cultivating customers’ taste for barramundi took a little while, said Pelletier, because most weren’t familiar with the fish when it debuted on the menu a few months ago.
When it comes to cooking with the fish, Pelletier raves about it. Barramundi’s fat content keeps it from drying out and its white, flaky texture and taste (which he describes as a cross between halibut and haddock) make it easy to dress up with spices and sauces.
Daniel O’Neill, general manager of the Lobster Tail in North Andover and Windham, N.H., has also seen the fish grow in popularity over the last few months, a trend he expects to continue through Lent. Christians who observe the 40-day period leading up to Easter refrain from eating meat on Fridays, except for fish.
Why is this fish so popular? Fans of barramundi say it’s because it tastes good, and compare its taste to sea bass. Cooks like working with the fish because it has few bones and its thin fillets cook in minutes. The health-conscious like it because it has a high concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon.
“People are just starting to find out about it,” said O’Neill. “It’s becoming more and more popular in New England. More and more people are looking for it and asking for it. I get a lot saying they’ve tried it in restaurants and thought it was excellent.”
Most of the barramundi available North of Boston comes from Australis Aquaculture, the fish farm in western Massachusetts.
“It just hasn’t been available. It was an Australian fish, mostly farmed in Australia, and it was available in very limited quantities,” said Carol Devine, vice president of marketing at Australis.
The business, she said, unlike some other fish farms internationally, raises the fish free of pollutants, hormones and antibiotics. Devine advises consumers to seek out fish raised in this fashion for the best flavor and health benefits.
“People, once they taste it, they love it,” she said. “The biggest marketing challenge is getting it into people’s mouths. Once they eat it, they love it.”
r The fish is prized for its sweet, buttery taste and delicate
r It’s native to Australia’s northern tropical wilderness.
r The word “barramundi” is Aboriginal for large-scaled fish.
r In its natural state, it is usually a pale grey-green color with a coppery shimmer.
r At the start of the monsoon season, males migrate down-river to meet females, who each lay millions of eggs.
r The fish are highly prized by anglers for their good fighting ability. They’re good at avoiding fixed nets and best caught on lines.
r Barramundi is fished internationally and raised in aquaculture in Australia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands.
r It was recently the theme ingredient on an episode of “Iron Chef America.”
Makes 1 serving
Herbed new potatoes:
5 red bliss potatoes, cut into 6 pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1 teaspoon parsley
1 chopped sprig rosemary
2 ounces vegetable oil
1 ounce Knorr hollandaise mix
4 ounce melted whole butter
1 cup milk
11/2 barramundi fillets, for a total of 8.5 ounces of fish
2 ounces vegetable oil
6 spears asparagus, blanched in boiling water
2 ounces lump crab meat
In a pot of boiling salted water, cook asparagus for 2 to 4 minutes until al dente.
Toss potatoes in oil and seasonings, and place on a sheet pan in a preheated 350 degree oven, cook 20 to 25 minutes or until al dente.
Cube the butter and melt in a sauce pan, blend in the hollandaise mix with a whisk. When the mix and butter are combined add milk, continue to whisk until the sauce reaches a boil, pull sauce off heat and reserve for plating.
Heat a saute pan with 2 ounces of vegetable oil and sear the fish skin side up until cooked halfway through, flip the fish and continue to cook until cooked all the way through.
In a separate pan, heat the crab meat until it is hot (1 to 2 minutes).
To serve: Plate six pieces of asparagus from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock to fan out around the plate. Place four half-potato cubes on the left side of the plate and on the right side of the plate. Place the fish at the bottom of the plate over the asparagus. Shingle the two pieces of fish so that they overlap. Plate the two ounces of crab meat on top of the fish and top with the hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle chopped parsley over fish and around edge of plate.
— Recipe from chef Mitchell Pino of the Naked Fish in Westborough, Mass.
Skillet Roasted Barramundi
2 to 4 ounces barramundi
4 ounces butternut squash puree
3 ounces spinach, sautéed
2 ounces charred pepper coulis (see below)
Frizzle leeks, fried
Balsamic reduction, reduced to thick syrup, served chilled in squeeze bottle
To sear the fish:
1 ounce olive oil
1 teaspoon salt and pepper
Seasoned fish with salt and pepper. Add oil on the flat top. Seared for 3 minutes. Turn fish over and finished to desire temperature.
Butternut squash puree: (Makes 1/3 pan)
5 pound butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 small garlic clove
2 quarts chicken-broth
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon Honey
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 pound unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Simmer butternut squash, garlic, broth, and salt in a heavy saucepan, covered, until squash are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove most of the chicken stock before puree. Add butter, nutmeg, honey, cayenne pepper and brown sugar. Puree mixture in a food processor until (thick consistency) smooth. Transfer in 1/3 pan and keep warm.
Charred Red Pepper Coulis
(Makes 1 quart)
10 red bell peppers
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup oil
2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cilantro, chopped
Rinse peppers. Then seasoned and coat peppers with salt and oil. Place peppers on open flame at the sauté station. Cook until the peppers are almost burnt. Transfer to an ice bath. Then peeled, discard any black skin. Placed the clean pepper in a blender. Add cilantro, salt, balsamic, honey and puree until smooth. Transfer to a squeeze bottle. Served chilled.
1 bunch leeks, Julianne, washed and submerged in water
Fry leek until crisp or golden brown about 1 to 2 minutes. Place paper towel in a 2-inch hotel pan and season with salt.
— Recipe from chef Vin Blenis of the Naked Fish in Billerica, Mass.
Lemon Butter Barramundi
4 barramundi fillets (skin on or off, any size)
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 to 6 leaves fresh basil, minced (or 3/4 teaspoon dry)
Rinse fillets and pat dry with paper towel.
Spray fillets with canola or olive oil.
Saute the fillets on high heat for 3 minutes (skin side up).
Flip and cook 1 more minute. Transfer to serving dish.
Gently saute the garlic in butter for about 2 minutes.
Stir in salt, lemon juice and basil.
Remove from heat and spoon over fillets immediately before serving.
Barramundi Fish Taco
4 barramundi fillets (cut into 1-inch cubes)
2 tablespoons chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion (cut into medium slices)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 jalapeno peppers (cut into medium slices)
2 tablespoon peanut oil
2 tablespoon olive oil
8 to 12 yellow corn tortillas
(Peanut oil as needed for tortillas)
1 cup Monterey Jack and/or mild cheddar cheese (grated)
Sear veggies using half the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes (softened but not wilted). Remove from pan.
Add remainder of oil to pan and add fish, skin side down. Cook about 2 minutes. Add spices and stir fish once with a spatula, trying not to break it too much. Cook 1 additional minute.
Add veggies to the fish, gently mix and remove from heat.
In a clean pan over low heat put a few drops of oil, add a tortilla and gently move around with fingers, flip and repeat, until warmed and softened. About 1 minute. Stack warmed tortillas on a plate and cover with clean dish towel to keep warm.
Serve at once. Allow diners to spoon fish into tacos and add cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, etc., as desired. Eat with hands.
Grilled Blackened Barramundi Sandwich
4 barramundi fillets
4 tablespoon butter
Coleslaw (see recipe below) or a Tartar sauce of your choosing
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
4 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
11/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
11/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Light a charcoal or gas grill.
Place all the spices in a bowl and mix well.
Divide baguette into four lengths approximately as long as the fillets and split each in half.
Heat butter in a frying pan until just melted and turn off heat.
Coat fish with butter by either brushing it on or by placing fillet in pan just long enough to coat. Place buttered fillets on a plate or platter.
Also butter the split face of the baguette in the same manner and set aside.
Sprinkle the spice mixture on all sides of fish, coating liberally.
Grill fish for about three or four minutes on each side, avoiding open flame. The end result will be dark, some of the herbs may even be a little burned, and the fish should be just done.
Remove fish from heat and allow to rest for a few minutes.
Grill bread, buttered face only, until just golden.
Assemble: Place a liberal amount of coleslaw on one half of baguette, add a fillet, top with other half of baguette and hold everything together with a long tooth pick.
4 cups red cabbage (shredded)
2 carrots (shredded)
2 shallots (minced)
1/2 red onion (halved and sliced thinly)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup sweet pickle (minced)
1/2 lemon (juiced)
Combine all the vegetable ingredients in a large bowl.
Combine all remaining ingredients in a small bowl and add to vegetables.
Adjust seasoning, and let sit in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Three Citrus Australis Barramundi Ceviche
1 small barramundi fillet, boneless and skinless
2 tablespoons each of fresh lime juice, ruby red grapefruit juice and lemon juice
2 tablespoons of yuzu juice (unsalted)
1 seedless cucumber
1 tablespoon of pomegranate seeds
1/2 teaspoon toasted coriander seeds
1 tablespoon gelatin powder
For ceviche cups
Mix citrus juices in shallow bowl
Marinate the barramundi fillet in the citrus juices for about 30 minutes.
While marinating, cut individual cucumber cups about 1 1/2 inches high. Hollow out the center, reserve to the side.
Slice ceviche fillet into small, bit-sized pieces. Arrange in cucumber cups.
Drizzle small amount of citrus mixture over pieces
Garnish each cup with pomegranate seeds
Slice yuzu foam into small squares, arrange on plate
Garnish plate with toasted coriander seeds, some micro Swiss chard or other garnish
For Yuzu Foam
Mix 1 tablespoon of gelatin powder in water to dissolve, add a splash of yuzu, whisk until it foams. Chill immediately while still frothing.
— Recipe from Steve Mandracchia, executive chef at Trump Grille in New York
Aquaculture brings Australian favorite to Boston
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — There’s a new fish in town.