Posted on: August 31, 2009


Last night we ate porgies. I bought them at the Bay Ridge Greenmarket from the excellent Long Island Sound based American Seafood stand. I prefer whole fish to fillet or steak. One of the reasons is that I like to look the fish in the eye. If the eye is clear, bright with dense black pupil & looking back at me I see/hear “buy me!” If the eye is cloudy, dry and sunken, the message is that this fish has been on display away from the water for too long. Other general indicators of fish freshness are:
The skin must be moist and shiny.
The gills need to be bright red or pinkish red. When pressed with the finger, flesh should bounce back and leave no indentation.
Fresh fish smells like fresh seaweed, any strong odor is suspicious. If the fish smells, even slightly, like ammonia discard it —I once worked with a chef who asked me to “bathe” the fillet we were to serve as “specials” that night in vinegar & water to make the smell disappeared! I refused.


As you can see my porgies were beautiful and cost me $5. Buying a whole fish is much cheaper by the pound. Yes! it is more work as you will have to debone it yourself.  There is also more waste, but what about a fish soup with the bones? I will give you that recipe later. Also, below you will find a quick homemade video on how to serve your fish. I would appreciate if you have a few minutes to give me feedback on the specific questions.
Meanwhile, voilà today’s recipe:

2 Porgies (1 guted & scaled fish per person of 1/2 lb or so)
1 sweet onion peeled and sliced very thin
1 Italian or Jalapeño pepper, inside seeds and rib removed and chopped very small
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
2 ripe tomatoes
1 glass of dry white wine
1 or 2 limes
½ cup olive oil ¼ cup of butter
Preheat oven to 375º.
Coat the bottom of an ovenproof dish with olive oil. Arrange the onions & hot peppers.

stuffing porgies with cilantro

Add the tomatoes.
Add white wine. Make 2 slits on the fish.
Salt the inside of the fish, squeeze some lime into it & stuff with a few sprigs of fresh (well washed) cilantro.
Insert slices of lime into the slits on the fish.
Pour the juice of ½ a lime over. Scatter tiny pieces of butter on top of the fish.
Put in the oven for 25/30 minutes.
Baste the fish every 10 minutes with the liquid in the pan.

We ate them with corn on the cob and a beet salad. More details on the video on how to serve it.

How to serve the whole fish family style:

Please take the survey below if you have a minute.
To do so copy & paste the question in an email or in the comment box.

Is this video helpful to you?
Did you know how to deal with a whole fish before?
If not are you going to try it now?
Did the “homemade” quality of the video bother you?
Do you want more videos on the blog?
If yes, what do you want to see?
How long?

Bonus question:
Add any personal comments :

M E R C I !

9 thoughts on “Look at me Porgy!

  1. Nicole:
    Your website is fantastic. I’ll try my hand at Porgies and Bass (Hey that could be the name of my new opera). I don’t know if your remember, but years ago I took a class you gave at Cafe Capriccio. We made monk fish. The fish was so good that I became a monk. Had you cooked shark my life might have been more exciting. In any case a fish in the hand, is worth two seeking a worm.
    Joseph K. MD [Menands Diletante]

    1. Would you call yourself a fishy monk?
      Yeah! I remember the classes at Café Capriccio, they were a lot of fun.
      See you soon. Maybe in Albany or Saratoga in November I have gigs there.
      Alors à bientôt!

  2. I dealt with whole fish (when I was a kid) and never managed well. But we were warned about bones. You just knew: when you eat fish be carefull. Nowadays it seems a crime when you find a bone in your fish.
    No, I won’t prepare it myself. I’m not a good cook. I love to eat though 🙂
    The video is interesting combined with the blog entry here. I don’t feel it’s necessary but it’s nice to hear you talk, watch you dealing with those fish.
    I didn’t know about the cheeks being so tasty… and that’s information you don’t get by only reading the text. Is that in all fish?

    1. Yeap! most fish have cheeks, but don’t tell anybody in your house so you get to eat them all! When I go to Gloucester, Ma, I always get fried cod cheeks, delicious!
      And you are absolutely right one must be very careful with the bones. When I was a kid we were advised to chew for a long time to make sure there was no bones left. And when my kids where very small I actually chewed their fish first. But don’t repeat that!

  3. Hi Nicole – this is a great website and blog – your comments are very entertaining. Thanks for leaving your comment on my blog about my Julie & Julia post. Your blog is much richer visually and as entertaining as Julie Powell’s, even though she’s rich and famous and you aren’t (Yet). I hope others will visit me at Julie Lomoe’s Musings Mysterioso,

  4. Is this video helpful to you? Yes!
    Did you know how to deal with a whole fish before? When I lived in Spain my friends deboned it for me.
    If not are you going to try it now? Of course!
    Did the “homemade” quality of the video bother you? Homemade? I didn’t notice.
    Do you want more videos on the blog? Yes!
    If yes, what do you want to see? More recipes using seasonal food at farmers markets in NYC.
    How long? As long as you need.

    Bonus question: Any recipes with mussels?

    Add any personal comments : This reminded me of all the great fresh fish I had when I lived in Madrid. The same fish seller comes to my farmers market in Queens so I can give this a try.

    1. Mussels! what a great idea! Actually I am doing a demo at the Bay Ridge Green market on Saturday, I might just do that & hopefully have enough time/hands to document.
      For your information I try to give only seasonal recipes, so if you don’t find a recipe this season I might have posted it last year. I can’t believe that the blog is now 18 month old. OMG! a toddler entering the terrible twos! Also if you have special request (like the mussels) you can always send me a request and I will try my best to answer. Thank you for reading the blog and look out for the Mussel with the next 30 days! (I just made a commitment!)

  5. Is this video helpful to you?
    Did you know how to deal with a whole fish before? No. My mother cooked whole fish for the family but I never learned how to deal w/ one.

    If not are you going to try it now?
    Maybe? 🙂

    Did the “homemade” quality of the video bother you?
    No, I like it and felt like I was in your kitchen.

    Do you want more videos on the blog? Would love that. I appreciated the text blocks explaining things too.

    If yes, what do you want to see? Techniques would be handy.

    How long? 5 min. max?

    My mother would save the fish eye for herself, too.

  6. Admiring the time and effort you put into your site and in depth information you present. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Excellent read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

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