Cooking: Dolphin Days
days - the steamy summery and early fall months when this tropical
delicacy is pretty easily found hiding and feeding beneath the
Sargassum beds in the Gulf Stream. That is, if you can find
Dolphin now appears regularly on local dining tables, restaurant menus,
and in seafood markets.
Many Americans have taken to calling it by its Hawaiian name,
mahi-mahi, to avoid confusion, and it is also known in places as
dorado, but here on the islands you can still see it referred to as
dolphin, especially among the fishermen.
It is a gorgeous fish with colors that are truly tropical in nature -
brilliant turquoise, yellow, and green. It lives in the vivid
blue water offshore and is rarely spotted jumping out of the water
unless it has been hooked.
When it comes toward the surface, it is a spectacular sight.
will miss the display if you don’t have an opportunity to fish for it,
since it loses its color once out of water and most people only see it
after it has been filleted.
The dolphin that we refer to is a food fish, Coryphaena hippurus, and
sometimes called Dolphinfish. It is pelagic and lives in the
tropical and sub-tropical ocean areas where it is a voracious predator
and prolific spawner. It reaches maturity quickly and has a
life span. Its population is considered “healthy” by National
It does not frolic and leap in the water near boats and has never been
credited with saving anyone from sharks or drowning.
What is also commonly called a dolphin by many people is, in fact, not
even a fish but a sea mammal, a bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus,
and is most certainly not edible - at least not for humans.
So, relax. We are not trying to catch, sell or eat “Flipper”!
Dolphin is, to my mind, the most versatile fish you can bring into the
kitchen. Its meat is white and sweet and firm enough to grill
while it also takes to just about any other method of cooking you would
want to employ. And it is absolutely delicious any way it is
prepared. It is, by far, my favorite fish.
There is one dolphin delight I could eat every day and that is Capt.
Ernie’s beer-battered dolphin. The bite is deliciously salty
crunchy on the outside and inside the batter, the fish is sweet and
moist and the combination of flavors is heavenly.
Whether we are joined by guests or just feeding ourselves, we always
gather around our small island in the kitchen to snatch the dolphin as
it comes out of the electric fryer. We have to discipline
ourselves to leave enough to put on the table!
I concocted what I called my “secret sauce” many years ago to accompany
the dolphin bites. It is ridiculously easy, embarrassingly
hence the name. It is now being commercially produced, but I
still like to make my own and add French tarragon.
1 can or
bottle of beer,
warm and flat
1 egg, beaten
About 2 cups
1 1/2 - 2
skin removed cut into thumb-size chunks
In large bowl, mix and beat the beer, egg and salt together.
enough flour to make the mixture the consistency of pancake batter.
Heat the oil in an electric fryer (for better temperature control) to
Add the dolphin chunks, a few at a time, to the batter, turning to coat
Drop the battered fish into the hot oil, a few at a time, and cook
until browned and crunchy. Do not cook too many at a time
that will lower the temperature of the oil and result in soggy fish.
Drain the cooked fish on paper towels and serve immediately.
mayonnaise (I use
Hellman’s) and Dijon mustard in a proportion of 2 mayo to 1
mustard. Adjust according to your taste. Stir in
dried French tarragon to mix generously throughout the sauce.
Start with a teaspoon and again, taste and adjust. The
provide the seasoning, so don’t add salt.
The flavors that come from the Mediterranean basin pair beautifully
with seafood. The staples include lemons, olive oil, fresh
and garlic. How can you go wrong?
When you bake dolphin fillets in lemon juice and add these other
ingredients, it takes this amazingly versatile fish to another
level. Toss in some fingerling potatoes and sliced
and grill some zucchini, and you have a very satisfying dinner.
JUICE AND HERBS
4 fillets of
1/2 cup extra
rosemary, finely chopped
Italian flat leaf
parsley, finely chopped
Juice of 2
Sea salt and
ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Season the fillets with salt and pepper.
Pour 1/4 cup of the olive oil into a baking dish just large enough to
hold the fish and potatoes without crowding them.
Place the sliced onions into the baking dish and put the potato slices
atop the onions. Season with salt and pepper and half of the herbs and
garlic and then place the fillets on top.
Sprinkle the rest of the herbs, garlic, and lemon juice over and around
Cover and place in the heated oven and bake about 10 minutes.
Remove the cover and continue to bake until the fish becomes opaque and
flaky, about 10-15 minutes more.
Serve with a seasonal green vegetable, such as zucchini.
in half and score the flesh. Place on oiled baking sheet.
olive oil, marjoram, and salt and pepper.
just a few minutes, until the zucchini begins to brown.
add chopped parsley, a little more marjoram, and a spritz of lemon
I also love dolphin en papillote, steamed in parchment paper.
retains its clean and delicate flavor best when prepared this way.
There is, in Istanbul, a delightful restaurant located above the
Egyptian, or Spice, Market.
You reach Pandeli’s by a skinny, long, interior staircase in which you
find yourself happily assaulted by the bouquets of the myriad spices
from below mingling with the enticing aromas from the kitchen above.
As you enter the dining room, you are visually struck by the exquisite
turquiose, blue, and white glazed tiles that cover the interior
walls. They are irresistibly cool to the touch, and it became
tradition to do so as a way of acknowledging my pleasure to be back.
Pandeli’s is renowned for the fish en papillote, and I have never eaten
anything there but this. It is that good.
The good news is it can be easily reproduced at home. It is
This recipe allows for numerous variations of fish, vegetable, and
herb combinations, so use what is fresh. The broth that brews
the parchment is wonderful to spoon over rice. You can also
aluminum foil to the same effect as parchment. It just isn’t
The aroma that arises when you open the “package” is almost as
rewarding as the lovely flavors.
fillets, of similar depth and width
unsalted butter, cut into 8 pats
8 bay leaves
slices of red
pepper (bell pepper, not chili pepper)
slices of yellow
large squares and coat inside with butter.
sides of the
dolphin fillets with salt and place one in the center of each parchment
square. Sprinkle each with lemon juice; top with 2 pats of
and 2 bay leaves.
herbs atop the fish and sprinkle each with one tablespoon white wine.
paper around the
fish as if making a package. Put a toothpick through the
paper on top, being careful to ensure the package is completely
closed. You don’t want steam or liquid to escape.
Some of you
may be more
comfortable using aluminum foil as it does crimp together well.
packets on a
baking sheet and put into the oven to cook for 20 minutes.
plates and carefully open the package. Diners enjoy the
of eating directly from the packet so spoon some prepared rice onto the
Welcome your guests or treat yourself outside on the porch with a
festive pitcher of white sangria flavored with fruit. The
make it a healthy appetizer!
Lee Robinson’s carries a delectable prepared white sangria by SaViDa
that has peach juice as one of its ingredients. I use that in
summer when they also have fresh peaches in their market across the
It takes no time, but its presentation belies that fact. Just
pour the contents of the bottle into a pitcher and add thin slices of
fresh peaches and strawberries, limes, and lemons. Add some
mint and a handful of blueberries and you have a very pretty, very
Foster lives in Hatteras village with her husband, Ernie. Together they
operate The Albatross Fleet of charter boats. They actively support the
sustainable practices of the island’s commercial fishermen and the
preservation of Hatteras Island’s working waterfront. Both
to cook seafood and entertain friends, and Lynne loves to experiment
with recipes for locally caught seafood.)