Triggerfish are a funny looking, fun to catch summer species in the New York/NJ bite. They usually swim up in the gulf stream as the waters warm and show up on the reefs and bays of NJ and Long Island in mid-July while party boats are targeting sea bass and porgies. The Ocean Eagle V out of Sheepshead Bay is a great party boat that targets these tasty fish. Triggerfish are also a favorite of spear fishermen.
Triggerfish are sustainable, locally caught fish, prized by seasoned salties. They have firm white flesh that is slightly sweet in flavor – closer to crab than fish in some ways. Their firm fresh hold up on the grill and they can be cooked whole or as fillets. I like them beer battered and deep fried, baked or poached, or any simple method that lets their flavor shine. This wonderful taste of summer is something I look forward to each year.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
one 12-ounce can beer (ale, larger)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Fish
6 cups peanut or canola oil
1 ½ pounds skinless fillets (triggerfish, cod, flounder, fluke, or haddock), cut into four pieces, less than ¾-inch thick
salt and pepper
malt vinegar, or lemon
1. For the Batter: Whisk together flour, cornstarch, beer, egg, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Make sure there are no lumps. Cover bowl and place in fridge for at least 20 minutes, and up to 3 hours.
2. For the Fish: Pour oil into a large dutch oven. Turn heat to medium and bring to a temperature of 375°F.
3. Dry fish fillets with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Drop each piece into the bowl of batter.
4. When oil is at 375°F., remove one piece of fish out with a pair of tongs, letting the excess batter drip back into the bowl. Then lower it into the oil, holding on to it for a few seconds to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Repeat process with other fillets. Adjust heat to medium-high to keep temperature at about 350°F. Cook until fillets are golden brown, about five minutes.
5. Drain fish fillets on a baking sheet covered with paper towels. Serve with cole slaw, malt vinegar, lemon, or whatever you like best.