Bonefish is, as the name implies, is a fish with many small bones. It is often considered a sport fish for anglers visiting the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. It is sometimes referred to as a “catch and release” fish. In Hawaii, however, this fish is a favorite for eating among the locals. The Hawaiian name for bonefish is o’io.
Preparing a bone fish for consumption takes a skilled and patient hand. The fish is scaled, then filleted or butterflied with the skin and tail left intact. The soft flesh is scraped off of the bones and skin with a spoon while holding the tail firmly. Once the meat is removed to a bowl, the fish is then picked over to remove any smaller pin bones that might have gotten into the flesh. Here is a home video that shows the process of preparing a bonefish.
There are 2 common preparations for bonefish on the islands. The first is to eat it raw in the form of poke, sushi, or ceviche. The second is to form the fish into cakes and deep fry them. Some will bake a whole bonefish. Though, eating a baked o’io means dealing with the bones in almost every bite. In this recipe, we’ll explore making bonefish cakes or patties that can be prepared on a George Foreman Basic Grill.
A Couple of Tips for Grilling Bonefish Cakes
In past recipes I have omitted the egg as the binder in grilled fishcake recipes. This is because the cakes cook so quickly on a contact grill that I felt the egg might not cook all the way through. In this recipe I have included an egg to better bind the fish. I find that the texture of bonefish really needs something to hold it together. Also, this fish seems to take longer to cook through. If you are allergic to eggs, you can substitute a mixture of 1 part flax meal with 1 part water. A tablespoon of each should work. Or, use an equivalent amount of egg free mayonnaise. There is corn starch in this recipe, which is traditional, that also acts as a binder.
Flatten the patties so that they are more like large, plump coins than fat burgers. It helps if you wet your hands when forming the cakes. It is just fine to allow the thinner cakes to become crispy discs to enjoy as finger food. There are no formalities when eating bonefish cakes or patties. Fingers, dipping sauce, and napkins work fine. This is a casual dish that fares well as a snack or an outdoor party appetizer with plenty of other finger food. Just keep grilling batches on your Foreman Grill as people eat them up, or keep them warm on a sheet pan in a low oven.
Grilled Bonefish Patties on a Foreman Grill Recipe
- 1 pound of fresh bonefish (o’io) flesh with bones removed
- 1/4 cup cornstarch or arrowroot powder (kudzu might also work)
- 1 egg beaten or egg substitute
- 1 TBS tamari, soy sauce, or oyster sauce
- 1 tsp minced fresh garlic
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger root powder
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup minced celery
- 1/4 cup minced scallions
- 1 TBS fine bread crumbs (more if the patties feel too wet)
- Rice flour for coating the patties
- Light cooking oil, such as grapeseed or canola
Total time: 25 min – Prep time: 15 min – Cook time: 10 min – Serves: 2 people
1. Prepare the bonefish as described in the introduction or have your fish monger remove the flesh and bones.
2. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together, except for the fish, flour, and cooking oil.
3. Incorporate the bonefish into the other ingredients using your hands or pulsed in a food processor in if the meat is in large pieces. Don’t overwork this already soft flesh. If it is too wet to form into patties, add more breadcrumbs a little at a time.
4. Form the fish mixture into slider sized patties and flatten each a bit with your palms. You don’t want them to be quite as thick as a crab cake or a hamburger. Place the patties on a plate or sheet tray in the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up.
5. Preheat your GF Basic Grill to high. Meanwhile, place the rice flour on a plate and coat each fish patty on both sides.
6. Generously oil your grill plates. Place enough patties on the grill to fit. Don’t overcrowd them. As unusual as this might sound, drizzle some more cooking oil on top of the patties and close the lid immediately. Grill for five minutes.
7. Check the patties and flip them over. The reason for flipping them over is to get an even cook with grill marks on both sides. Close the top and grill for up to another 5 minutes or until a crispy exterior is formed. (My basic grill is hotter on the bottom than on the top plate, so flipping works well).
I like to think of this preparation of bonefish as a snack eaten with your hands while standing around with friends outside on a nice summer evening. A perfect accompaniment is crispy roasted, fried, or grilled vegetables, such as potatoes or zucchini rounds, that can also be dipped. Another great pairing is grilled corn on the cob. Break or cut the ears of corn into thirds so the pieces can be enjoyed with one hand. I also recommend grilled pineapple rounds or skewers.