Lionfish Tacos with Chef James Fraser
Hi, I’m Chef James Fraser from the School
of Resort & Hospitality Management at Florida Gulf Coast University. Today we are
going to prepare the venomous yet delicious lionfish that is invading our reefs throughout
Florida and the Caribbean. This is an invasive species
that came from the aquarium trade and is now taking over our reefs and destroying
because they have a voracious appetite and they breed every four days. I’m gonna
demonstrate how to remove the quills safely, how to fillet the fish so that you can
cook it in a number of different ways. Today we’ve decided to do
a blackened fish taco. We’re going to now break down our lionfish safely
and we’re going to remove the quills first. Some areas that you want to avoid are
any of the spines up along the top of the fish and the fins up underneath it.
This is where the quills with the venom are. It’s easy to pick up by the tail. The venom
is not part of the fish, it’s only in the quills. You can carefully remove the spines
just with a pair of scissors. I’ll take it by the back of the tail
and I’ll work carefully from the back. You don’t have to cut into the flesh,
just the top of the quill. You also want to clip off the fins underneath. That has
a nasty little quill right there. You can see it sticking out. These can still be quite dangerous,
so you want to make sure that you’re disposing of them in an appropriate way
that isn’t gonna hurt anybody. Make sure that it’s dry so it’s easier to work with.
These fish have not been gutted yet. You can easily insert the tip
of your knife towards the back. You give it a little slit up through
the belly where it’s soft, and you’re able to scrape out the guts
with the blade of your knife. I’m just gonna reach in, pinch them, and I’ll
go ahead and cut them off on the inside where they’re connected to the head. Now to separate the fillets from the
rest of the fish, I start at the tail and I’ll work down to the spinal cord here.
And then I’m gonna allow the knife to just work on top of where the quills are. Now I’ll work from the belly and I’ll cut towards the head.
You can cut up around the front fin here. Now we can continue to separate
the fillet from the rest of the fish by just allowing the tip of our knife
to scrape along the bones till we start to reach the bottom.
I’m gonna go slightly over the spinal cord and into the stomach and ribs, in which I will be
separating this fillet from the rest of the fish entirely. This is your fillet. We’re gonna remove the belly
and feel for any rib bones, and you’re gonna cut just in front of those rib bones.
And when you do that, you wanna make sure that, using your fingers, that you don’t
feel any extra pin bones or ribs. And now we’ll remove the skin.
I like to use a flexible fillet knife. And I start at the tail, go down
to the skin. It’s very tender skin. And I’m gonna angle it, blade slightly up. I’m not
gonna saw, I’m just gonna allow my very sharp knife to work along the skin and separate
that skin from the rest of our fish. We’ll flip this fish, we’ll remove the other side,
and have a beautiful white fillet. The most important thing that I think that
you could probably do while you’re, you know, in your preparation here, is to
keep your fillets cold. Keep your food safe, keep the people that are eating with you safe.
Make sure that your fish fillets are ice-cold until you’re ready to use them. We’re gonna make a nice cabbage slaw to give our
fish tacos a nice crunch and a beautiful color. We’re gonna start with some of
the leaves of the cabbage. It’s important here that you’re gonna make nice thin cuts
as you’re cutting through your red cabbage for your slaw. We’re also gonna add to our slaw some shredded carrots. We’re gonna use a chipotle mayonaisse, some scallions. So we’ll take our bunch
of scallions that have been washed and dry. So, I usually just remove the tops of the scallions
so I can get a more even cut. And then I’m going to make nice thin
scallion cuts with a very sharp knife. If you use a dull knife in this process,
you’re gonna bruise the herb, and it’s going to start to oxidize, and it will
start to change the flavor of what you’re making. We’ll do our cilantro next. We’ll save a few of these
cilantro pieces so that we can create a nice garnish, and then we’re gonna shave the leaves off
and pick out any large stems, Never chop down on herbs,
always slice through the herbs. Starting with the front of your knife, working it
through the heel and using your hands as a guide. I’m not gonna chop this too finely. I want it to be luscious and green, light and fluffy.
Voila: chopped cilantro. To cut an avocado is actually a lot of fun.
It’s almost one of the reasons why I became a chef. I got to make guacamole with my hands,
which I thought was highly entertaining. Very carefully with your knife,
you can cut from the top into the pit. Not too much effort. You allow the knife to roll
through the pit until you reach the other side. You’re able to twist it apart.
Very carefully use your knife and twist the nut out. From here, here you can
use a spoon or a spatula. Scrape out your avocado so it’s nice and whole.
See how easy that was? We’re just gonna make these into small
pieces so that they’ll fit into our tacos nicely. The last thing that I’m gonna do
for us is to cut our limes. We’re gonna do these into some garnish pieces so
that you could squeeze some fresh lime on our tacos. So all of our knife work
at this point is done. Okay, so to make our slaw for our tacos today,
we’re gonna add some of our cut cabbage, some of our shredded carrot, some cilantro,
scallions, some salt, fresh ground pepper. Go ahead and toss those things together. We can start
frying off our fish with some blackening seasoning. The blackening seasoning you can either make yourself,
you can get something that’s store-bought. I’m gonna go ahead and add some of
my smoked salt to my fillets. And I’m gonna season with
some of the blackening seasoning. When I season, I always season up high,
never real low. This will concentrate your seasoning,
this will spread your seasoning. I’m gonna turn these fish and season the other side.
You can be generous here. Food likes to be seasoned.
It likes to be seasoned well. My pan is hot, my station is hot. Make sure that we keep our areas clean
through all the processes of our cooking. The oil that you use to fry greatly depends on what
you’re cooking and how high you’re cooking it. This is a blended olive oil. If I used straight olive oil,
you run the chances of the olive oil burning. Once my pan has some heat to it, I’m going to
add just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. You know that your pan is hot and that your oil is hot
when you see the oil somewhat shimmer. I’m gonna take my filleted lionfish, and
always laying the fish away from me. Okay, you want to make sure that you have
an appropriate temperature to fry with, or you’re gonna have really a lot of issues with
the protein sticking to the bottom of the pan. You can alleviate that issue by making sure that
you have a hot pan and hot oil, so that the protein is searing before it
actually has contact with the bottom of the pan. About a minute and a half on one side. You want to
make sure that the fish is blackened, and not burnt. Okay, you can see that the fillets in this oil,
because the oil was hot and the pan was hot, there’s nothing sticking.
Okay? My fillets were dry. You give it a careful turn, always away from you.
You don’t want to turn it towards you, you run the risk of splashing oil on yourself.
Total cooking time here: minute and a half on each side, three to four minutes tops. Five minutes
will give you a more well-done product. Of course, this decides greatly on the size
of your fillet, temperature of your oil. You know that your fish is cooked all the way through
when you touch it and the flesh feels firm to the touch. You don’t want it to be soft or mushy.
I’m gonna go ahead and remove it from the pan, and I’m gonna allow
some of the grease to run off. If your oil in-pan is not scorched or burnt,
you can continue to use it until you start to see that your seasonings
are starting to burn. We’re going to start warming up our tortillas.
I have flour tortillas, that’s my preference. You can easily use corn tortillas.
We’re gonna warm these up without any type of oil or water
or anything like that. And you’ll know that they’re warm because
they start to get somewhat pliable and they’ll start to bubble a little bit. We’re gonna take half of the fillet,
goes right into the center. We’re gonna add some of our chipotle mayonnaise,
make sure that’s mixed in real nice. When it’s something like this, typically, less is more.
So you don’t want to overload your taco. We’ll hit it with a little bit of cilantro,
squeeze of lime. Okay, we’re gonna fold it carefully in half, and then
pick it together and place it on the center of a plate. We’re gonna do the same thing with the other half.
And we’ll put these together, pick them together. Okay, we’re gonna garnish this with some
organic tortilla chips, some extra cilantro, some limes and avocado. Your blackened lionfish tacos.