Whenever I talk with my saltwater fishing friends, the topic almost always turns to eating fish (my friends are like that) and what the best tasting fish is. The jack crevalle, or crevalle jack depending on who is talking about it, almost never gets mentioned in those conversations. In fact, the common feeling is that they are fun to catch but, beyond that, only good for bait or chum.
Never one to accept popular opinion without trying something myself, I took advantage of some 2-4 pound jacks that hit our pompano rigs on a recent trip to find out. We kept a couple good-looking fish. Because the most common thought was that jacks tasted “fishy,” my first course of action was to remove the gills and allow the fish to bleed out. They then went straight to a cooler full of ice to chill until we got back to the kitchen.
For this recipe, we butterflied the fish, head and all, and then used our knife to remove the strips of dark meat on either side of the spine. No matter the species, this dark bloodline will always have a stronger flavor than the rest of the meat. After that, we seasoned the fish with Old Bay, and then topped it with a mixture of panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Top the breading with a few pats of butter. Then bake and broil till the fish is cooked through and the breading is crispy and golden brown. This is an easy, great-tasting recipe for any type of fish, be it saltwater or fresh.
The result? While there isn’t any danger of jacks breaking into my Top 10 favorite food fish, it isn’t bad when prepped and cooked this way. The flesh is a little oily, like mackerel, and the texture might be best described as similar to a freshwater rainbow trout — soft but not mushy.
That makes me happy. Jacks hit hard and fight like a Mack truck. Hook into a 5-pound crevalle and you know something is on your line right away. The next time you catch a few, don’t just toss them back or cut them up for bait. Take a few minutes to bleed them out and put them on ice. You’ll be surprised at just how tasty they are.
1-2 jack crevalle, split, skin on
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon (or more, depending on taste) OId Bay Seasoning
½ stick butter, cut into pats
Start by removing the gills as soon as you land the fish. Return the jack to the water to allow it to bleed out. Place on ice immediately.
To clean, slice along the belly to remove the entrails. Continue the cut up one side of the spine to just under the skin. Don’t cut through the skin along the back of the fish. Finish by cutting through the fish’s head from the bottom up.
Fold the fish open like a book. Place on a baking sheet. Season the fish well with Old Bay. Blend the panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the surface of the fish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Remove the fish and turn the oven to broil. Once the broiler is hot, return the fish for to the oven for 5 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and crisp. Serve by carefully scooping the meat free from the skin. Remove the bones before serving.
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