Chili Lime Marinated Hogfish


I stumbled down the Fort Lauderdale dock, only half registering the Eeyore color of the sky. It was dawn, and I gulped down more coffee in the hopes of jolting myself awake. I wanted to be alert. I was about to go spearfishing.

"We'll go down about thirty feet", said Jason, the sport-fish captain who was taking me on the adventure, that's the best place to sight fish. As we loaded the boat with dive gear and spear guns I noticed that the early hour did not seem to bother him. Between spearfishing, deep-sea fishing, diving for lobsters, and surfing, he was up most mornings at this time.

His center-console vessel glided across the water. A rim of gold light appeared along the horizon, sending rays skyward through the clouds. After a quick journey Jason killed the motor and we suited up for the dive and plunged off the gunwale. I took my time descending, pinching my nose and clearing my ears while Jason waited for me at the bottom of the anchor line. He made an okay sign with his right hand, and when I nodded he turned and flutter-kicked toward the reef, a thin stream of bubbles marking his trail. He carried a flashlight, a lobster noose, and a metal stick; his wooden-handled Riffe spear gun stretched out in front of him, strung and ready. It looked like a scene from a James Bond film.

I spotted a large fish with brown, burgundy, and cream colored scales, and tapped on my tank to get Jason's attention. I pointed at the fish but Jason shook his head and continued on with his search. Small indigo fish flitted about the reef looking as if they belonged more in an aquarium than on the end of Jason's spear.

We floated over purple-rimmed tubes and labyrinth-patterned brain coral, surrounded by a peaceful serenity.

Thwack! Suddenly a muffled noise reverberated through the water, shattering the silence. I looked over at Jason, who had dropped the rest of his equipment and was pulling the line attached to his gun back to him. The metal spear had skewered a salmon-pink, pointy snouted fish. The fish convulsed to the ocean floor, sending a cloud of bubbles and sand to the surface. Jason reached down and unstrapped the knife from his calf, thrusting the blade behind the fish's eye and extracting the spear. He nestled the fish into the blue mesh bag hanging from his BCD and kicked down to retrieve his gear. Ten minutes later I heard another thwack and turned to find an identical fish on the end of Jason's spear - he had spotted it, aimed at it, and shot it before I'd even noticed it.

As we reemerged to the surface, Jason held up the mesh bag. We caught hogfish for breakfast, he declared.

I spit the regulator out of my mouth and laughed. "We?"

Back at the dock, the sky bloomed baby blue as Jason butchered our fish, each six pounds and the perfect size for breakfast. Jason's wife, Wendy, fired up the grill and sprinkled a mixture of dried chiles and lime zest over the rinsed fillets. "I used to use Paul Prudhomme's seasoning until I came up with my own blend last year," she explained. Wendy has worked as Jason's mate for fourteen years, so clearly she knew how to handle the filets. This was not the first hogfish she had ever grilled.

She laid the fillets at a 45-degree angle on the grill, flipping them after four minutes to reveal perfect grill lines. She waited a few more moments then lifted the fish from the heat, placing each fillet on a home-baked bun and topping the sandwiches with a salsa made from mangoes plucked from her own yard. She put plates in front of Jason and me, and both of us ravenously dug in. It was nothing like the meaty fish sandwich I'd been expecting. The hogfish flesh was delicate, flaky, and moist, perfectly accented by the sharp chiles, tangy lime, and sweet mangoes.

"We're going spearfishing again tomorrow," Jason said between mouthfuls.

I took a bite of the luscious sandwich and beamed. I could face another dawn-hour alarm if it meant I'd get a second chance at such a tasty meal.

Chili Lime Marinated Hogfish

Chili Lime Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 2 cloves garlic,minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 6 fillets hogfish
  • 6 hamburger buns
  • Mango salsa
  • Boston lettuce leaves

In a small bowl,whisk together the marinade. Place each piece of fish in the marinade and roll it around, making sure they are evenly coated. Pour excess marinade over fish and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Heat the barbecue to high. Place fillets on grill at a 45-degree angle. Cook 3-4 minutes and gently flip. Grill for another 3-4 minutes until fish is cooked through and flaky. Place each fillet on a toasted bun. Top with mango salsa and lettuce leaf.

Mango Salsa

  • 1 ripemango
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1/4-1/2 habanero pepper, depending on heat tolerance
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Dice the mango and red onion to uniform quarter-inch size. Cut the inner seeds and pulp out of the tomato leaving a flat fillet of tomato to work with. Dice the fillet to a quarter-inch size. Chop the habaneroas small as possible to evenly distribute heat.

Mix all ingredients together; taste for seasoning. Serves 6

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GoldenEye | Credit GoldenEye



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