Invasive Lionfish: If you can’t fish ‘em, eat ‘em at GW Fins
By Ann Maloney
Chef Tenney Flynn has it in for lionfish.
Last weekend, he participated in a Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day in Pensacola, Fla., that included a fishing rodeo where Flynn speared 140 pounds of the invasive but tasty creatures.
The result: The menu at GW Fins, where Flynn is chef and co-owner, will be complemented with lionfish specials, including flash-fried whole and with a Vietnamese chili glaze. The special dishes will stay on the menu as long as the fresh catch lasts.
Flynn has been a regular lionfish spear-fisher and an active proponent for the removal of the non-native fish from the Gulf of Mexico since participating in a lionfish rodeo in 2011.
The fish are difficult to catch on a line and often are harvested by spear-fishers, making it difficult to catch enough for commercial use, Flynn has said.
Lionfish have been on the GW Fins menu a couple of times, but in limited quantity. When Flynn would dive, he would often spear enough to prepare them for friends or restaurant regulars. A few times, he caught enough – 10 pounds or more -- to put Lionfish on one night's menu.
No one is certain how the non-native fish first came to the area, but speculation is an aquarium release. The fish are lovely to look at, brown and red striped with a flurry of delicate-looking spines and fins, making them popular in aquariums. (Want to see the fish in action? The Great Maya Reef exhibit at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas features lionfish.)
In 2014, reporter Susan Langenhennig went lionfish hunting with Flynn. Read more about it here.
Here, Flynn offers one way to enjoy lionfish and help the cause. Turn the lionfish into tacos. Can't get Lionfish? Flynn recommends subbing out speckled trout. Fish Tacos can be garnished with avocados, tomatoes, chopped green onions and diced cilantro.
Gw Fins' Tempura Fried Lionfish Tacos
Serves 2 to 4.
1 cup cornstarch
1 cup all purpose flour
1 pinch baking soda
1 pinch baking powder
3 teaspoons Creole seasoning, divided
12 ounces light beer
1/2 pound Lionfish, cut into 3-inch pieces
Oil for frying
4 white (or corn) tortillas
Mix cornstarch, flour, baking soda and powder, 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning in bowl. Add beer and mix. Add handful of ice and stir. Let sit until ice is melted.
Sprinkle fish with 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning and then dip into batter. Place fish separately in hot oil and deep fry, moving back and forth, for 2-3 minutes. Place on paper towels to blot extra oil.
Brown white corn tortillas in a hot iron skillet.
To Assemble: Place Chipolte Slaw (see recipe below) on corn tortillas, then one or two pieces of fish.
1 cup mayonnaise
1 chipotle pepper in adobo
1 tablespoons adobo sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoons Creole seasoning
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cup finely sliced red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Blend mayonnaise, chipotle, adobo sauce, lime juice and Creole seasoning with a hand mixer until mixed thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix cabbage, bell pepper, green onions and cilantro together in a separate bowl. Pour dressing on slaw and toss thoroughly.
GW Fins is at 808 Bienville St., 504.581.3467.