The tilefish can be found in deep waters (200 to 1400 feet) off the continental shelf from Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico. Tilefish are members of the Malacanthidae family, a group of fish that is widespread in tropical and temperate waters. They are bottom feeders with strong teeth, and feed on shrimp, crabs, shellfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, squid, and an occasional fish.
Tilefish have a somewhat curious history, having been first 'discovered' in 1879 off Nantucket Island in the western Gulf Stream. They were found in abundance, and were fished commercially for only a few years until 1882 when, after a severe storm, tens of millions of dead and dying tilefish were found between Delaware Bay and Cape Cod. It would be almost 10 years before any tilefish were again found, and longer before commercial fishing for them was resumed. It is believed that the dieoff occurred when the storms caused an upwelling of cold waters into their warmer Gulf Stream habitat.
The tilefish family resembles the sea bass family in general appearance. Six species occur along the Atlantic coast of the United States. Two species, the golden tilefish (Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps) and the blueline or gray tilefish (Caulolatilus microps), are fairly plentiful in Florida waters. The golden tilefish is the most colorful fish with a blue-green back that fades to a pearly white belly. It is touched with red and blue iridescence, highlighted by irregular yellow-gold spots and ocean-blue under the eyes. Combined with these colorful markings is the adipose flag or crest on the head. The blueline tilefish is similar in taste to the golden tilefish, but it is not as colorful and lacks the adipose flag.
WHERE TO FIND THEM
Along the southeastern coast and in the Gulf, tilefish live in burrows and sometimes congregate in pods or small groups at depths ranging from 200 to more than 1,400 feet. As tilefish become larger they tend to live at greater depths. Tilefish do not school, but group in clusters near the heads and sides of submarine canyons along the outer continental shelf. The predominant fishing method is longlining with the greatest catch taken during the daylight hours. Although adults weigh an average of 10-25 pounds and can weigh up to 50 pounds, the common market size ranges about 6-8 pounds.
Their diet of crab and shrimp, etc. give them a firm but tender, white meat with a delicate sweet flavor. Extra lean fish.
"If you love lobster, you'll like tilefish."
Amberjack, Tilapia, Grouper, Shark, Snapper.
HOW MUCH TO BUY
• Whole or drawn fish: 3/4 to 1 pound per serving.
• Dressed or cleaned fish: 1/2 pound per serving.
• Fillets or steaks: 1/4 to 1/3 pound per serving.
BUYING, STORAGE AND HANDLING
Remember to purchase seafood last and keep it cold during the trip home.
Fresh whole fish should have:
-- A shiny surface with tightly adhering scales.
-- Gills that are deep red or pink, free of slime, mucus and off-odor.
-- Clean shiny belly cavity with no cuts or protruding bones.
-- A mild aroma, similar to the ocean.
Fresh steaks, fillets and loins should have:
-- A translucent look.
-- Flesh that is firm and not separating.
-- A mild odor, similar to the ocean.
-- No discoloration.
-- Packaging that keeps them from being bent in an unnatural position
• Keep raw and cooked seafood separate to prevent bacterial cross-contamination.
• After handling raw seafood thoroughly wash knives, cutting surfaces, sponges and your hands with hot soapy water.
• Always marinate seafood in the refrigerator.
• Discard marinade; it contains raw juices which may harbor bacteria.
• When marinade is needed for basting reserve a portion before adding raw seafood.
• The general rule is 10 minutes per inch of thickness, at the thickest part of the fillet or steak, at 400-450 degrees F.
• If fish is cooked in parchment, foil or a sauce, add 5 minutes to the total cooking time.
• Fillets less than 1/2 inch thick do not need to be turned during cooking.
• Fish cooks quickly. Do not overcook.
• Fish is done when the flesh becomes opaque and flakes easily when tested with a fork.
• Poaching, steaming, baking, broiling, sautéing, microwaving are excellent low-fat cooking methods, if you do not add high fat ingredients.
• Marinate in your favorite salad dressing prior to cooking.
• Broil, bake, steam or microwave, then cube and add to pasta or salad greens for a delicious salad.
• Broil or grill with lime-butter and seasoned salt.
• Oil the grill to prevent fish from sticking.
• Bake whole fish with a crab or shrimp stuffing.
• Add leftover fish in broken pieces to salads, soups or sauces.
• Spicy Tilefish Fillets Recipe
Nutritional values for approximately 4 ounces (114 grams) of raw, edible portions
• Calories 110
• Calories From Fat 15
• Total Fat 2 g
• Saturated Fat 0 g
• Cholesterol 55 mg
• Sodium 75 mg
• Total Carbohydrates 0 g
• Protein 22 g
For women of child-bearing age and small children there health hazards associated with mercury in Tilefish.
For additional information, visit these web sites:
U.S. Food and Drug Administration www.cfsan.fda.gov/seafood1.html
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.gov/ost/fish
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services www.fl-seafood.com