Preparation / Directions:
Here in Virginia, Bluefish took over the Chesapeake Bay about 20 years ago and ate up all of the good fish. They were fun to catch but then we had to figure out how to make them palatable. The answer was smoking. We also found that fennel compliments blue and other oily fish. This is the tall herb that grows wild around here and tastes like licorice; not the Florence fennel with the big root. The association of oily fish and fennel goes back for centuries. The French would use the herb, then put the stalks on the cooking fire for more flavor.
Scale and fillet blue and freeze. Freezing ruptures cells and the fish smoke better. When ready to smoke, thaw and layer fillets in a glass baking dish covering each layer with kosher salt. Leave at room temperature for 1 to 4 hours, rinse briefly, and allow to air dry for about an hour while you prepare the smoker. Place skin side down on wire racks and sprinkle liberally with coarse ground pepper. Also sprinkle liberally with either oregano or fennel (leaves or seeds, fresh or dry) or with both. Smoke for 6 to 10 hours at 170F. If you have access to the whole fennel plant, try using the dry stems to supplement your wood smoke. Check for doneness: The outside should have a dark bronze glazed look and the meat should flake easily. Cooked fish freeze well. Serve as appetizer with sharp cheese, crackers and white wine (sorry 'bout that, Bear)