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The Fish Market

The Versatile Tilefish Moves Into West Coast Markets

April 11, 1985|ISAAC CRONIN and PAUL JOHNSON | Cronin and Johnson are co-authors of "The California Seafood Cookbook."

One of the many East Coast fish that has become commonplace on the West Coast is the tilefish, also called tile bass and sometimes, incorrectly, sea bass. Tilefish is most plentiful in winter and spring. It is a beautiful fish with a turquoise blue back fading to yellow, pink and white on the belly, and the entire body is covered with bright yellow spots.

Tilefish may reach 50 pounds, although smaller fish, called kitten tiles, commonly are sold whole in some markets. The smaller fish have a more delicate flesh. Larger fish are usually sold as steaks or fillets. Tilefish eat mostly shellfish, resulting in a pink-hued flesh, which tastes faintly of the crab and shrimp that constitute their diet.

The texture of tilefish is similar to that of sea bass, somewhat coarse but tender at the same time. It takes well to any method of cooking and is exceptional in chowders or poached and served cold in a salad with an herb mayonnaise.

FRIED TILEFISH FINGERS

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

1 pound tilefish fillet, cut into finger-size pieces

1/2 cup milk

1 cup unbleached flour

2 eggs, beaten

Oil for deep-frying

Creole Mayonnaise

Combine bread crumbs and almonds. Dip fish in milk, then in flour. Coat fish with eggs, then cover with bread crumb-almond mixture. Heat enough oil for deep-frying to 375 degrees. Fry fish until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with Creole Mayonnaise or tartar sauce. Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Creole Mayonnaise

1 cup homemade or prepared mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to taste

Combine mayonnaise, mustard, white pepper, coriander and cayenne. Serve within 1 hour as it will become bitter if left standing.

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