[RECIPE] These Grilled Lionfish Tacos are Up to the Blue Ribbon Task

Grilled lionfish tacos

Eat them to beat them: Grilled lionfish tacos shot on site, and devoured shortly after by yours truly outside Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink Grand Cayman.

Our friends at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch are uniting their Blue Ribbon Task Force chefs including Michael around National Taco Day (October 4) and National Seafood Month (October) to raise awareness for sustainable seafood in the most delicious way possible. We most recently covered this topic hugely important the entire TGHG family on our blog with the release of Paul Greenberg’s most recent book, and now we’re back at it again inspired by my week in Grand Cayman, our home away from home where local fish and supporting the marine ecosystem is always top of mind.  Small changes have big impact especially in such a small slice of the Caribbean environment — and we’re talking positive ones here, like the Department of Environment’s lionfish culling program.  The first juvenile Indo-pacific Red Lionfish was removed from a dive site in Little Cayman in 2008 setting in motion a massive public-private partnership lead by DOE and bringing together local residents, dive industry operators, and people like TGHG Special Ops Chef Thomas Tennant in the unique position to influence change thanks to combining a love of SCUBA and skills in the kitchen.  Eat them to beat them we say!  During his 4 year tenure as our Grand Cayman opening chef, Thomas single handedly removed thousands (I wonder if not tens of thousands) of pounds of lionfish at his own spear, not to mention receiving countless deliveries from licensed divers through our service entrance sometimes on a daily basis.  If that drop in the bucket doesn’t count for something on a larger scale, I don’t know what does.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thomas returns to the island to host our fall Farm to Table Dinner on October 11, but we’re not waiting for that, taco day, or seafood month to celebrate this legacy that lives on in its simplest and maybe most delicious form every Monday through Saturday during our Happy Hour in Grand Cayman… Grilled Lionfish Tacos!  The recipe below is pretty awesome thanks to its simplicity. A few flavors combining into one juicy bite. The verdantly flecked herb mayo is especially addictive and you don’t need much.  With so many of Sylvester’s foraged avocados on our food bar wall here to deplete, there should be plenty of these going out at Happy Hour. I know I will make my contribution known! Follow both Genuine Instagrams (@MGFD_MIA and @MGFD_GCM) this week for a bigger taste of what’s new on-island. Today we’ll get the best temperature check of what’s in season when the Farmers Market makes its weekly Wednesday pop in our town center of Camana Bay.  Very excited to poke around the stalls with chef de cuisine Prudent Baselais and enjoy some of the ingredients for lunch!

Grilled Lionfish Tacos

Makes 12 tacos

12, 3-ounce lionfish filets, skin on and pin bones removed (you can substitute with a sustainable species like yellowtail snapper in Miami if you can’t find lionfish)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
12 corn tortillas
1 large tomato, diced
1 cup scallions cut on the bias
1 cup picked cilantro leaves
Juice of one lime
¼ cup Herb Mayonnaise (recipe below)
2 ripe avocados, halved and sliced
½ cup shaved radishes
3 limes cut into wedges

Preheat an outdoor gas or charcoal grill until very hot, or put a grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle the lionfish filets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill skin side down for 3 minutes. Leave them alone; the filets will stick to the grill if tried to turn too soon. Once they have developed nice grill marks flip gently with a fish spatula to finish cooking for 1 minute on the other side. Remove from the grill to a platter while you warm the tortillas

Pour 1/2 inch water into the bottom of the steamer, then line the steaming basket with a clean, heavy kitchen towel. Lay the tortillas in the basket. Fold the edges of the towel over the tortillas to cover them, set the lid in place, bring the water to a boil and let boil only for 1 minute, then turn off the fire and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. If you wish to keep the tortillas hot for up to an hour, slip the steamer into a low oven or reheat the water periodically.

To assemble, toss the tomato, scallion, and cilantro in the lime juice. Spread the herb mayonnaise on the corn tortillas, layering each with a filet, the sliced avocado and salad mix, topping with the shaved radish. Serve with lime wedges.

Herb Mayonnaise

Makes 2 cups

2 cups mayonnaise
¼ cup basil
¼ cup parsley
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

In the Fishbowl: Schwartzpatch from Seafood Watch’s Blue Ribbon Task Force Conference in Monterey Bay

Seasonal spread. Jealous.

In partnership with our trusted local fisherman, we’ve seen how effective Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program can be in helping us make sound decisions on what seafood to source for our restaurants.  In follow up to his visit to earlier in the summer for Cooking for Solutions, tonight Michael again returns home from California where he just spent two days with fellow chefs and thought leaders in sustainable seafood for its Blue Ribbon Task Force conference.  Picturesque surroundings and foods in season like these figs and stone fruit drizzled with local honey and accompanied by fresh farmers cheese set an appropriate stage for sessions with aquarium leaders and scientists and a seriously impressive group chef participants including Wholesome Wave founder & CEO Michel Nischan, Hugh Acheson, Rick Moonen, Michael Cimarusti, and Mary Sue Milliken.

The Bernardus Lodge, an amazing property located in sunny Carmel Valley, kicked off the conference on Monday night with a dinner hosted by executive chef Cal Stamenov, and on the schedule for yesterday were plenty of meetings, a behind-the-scenes tour of Monterey Bay Aquarium and its hypnotizing schools of sardines and translucent jellies, and final reports by task force leaders, followed by dinner hosted by culinary operations head Cindy Pawlcyn and her chef Jeff Rogers.  Of course a jam-packed day of activities wouldn’t be complete without s’mores and wine by the fire back at Bernardus Lodge.  And perhaps a little local spirit, as well.  See below for a list of the participants and their objectives for meeting, and we look forward to more progress to come with the many issues impacting the sustainability of seafood close to home and beyond.

Continue reading

Recipe for Sustainability: While Michael Cures Sierra Mackerel for Solutions in Monterey Bay, We Watch the Seafood at Home

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program is helping all of us help the oceans.

Michael’s headed to California today on an invitation from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to attend its annual Cooking for Solutions event where he will be honored with a distinguished group of chefs as a Seafood Ambassador.

The focus of Cooking for Solutions is to help people connect their individual buying decisions to the health of the oceans and the soil.  The events support the aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, helping consumers make informed seafood choices while dining out or in the grocery store through pocket guides, website, mobile applications and outreach efforts.   Since 1999, it has distributed tens of millions of pocket guides, had more than 240,000 iPhone app downloads, and cultivated close to 200 partners across North America, including the two largest food service companies in the U.S.

Seafood Watch is also a resource for the decision makers on the supply side of the marketplace — restaurateurs, food service companies and retailers like us.  In fact, we recently called on their help with a question about grouper.  Our sourcing decisions are made based on longtime relationships with trusted local suppliers, first and foremost.  So when fisherman George Figueroa from Trigger Seafood came to us wanting to offer spear caught black grouper in the area of the Florida Keys, and because of the particular stigma attached to grouper, we made sure to check with Seafood Watch, too.

Continue reading