Amberjack is a food that is increasingly finding its way onto fish market stalls and restaurant menus. If it was once considered a poor fish due to its abundance of species that crowded our seas, today the amberjack is a precious fish, in demand by the consuming public and chefs. Its flavor, versatile use in various gastronomic preparations, and high availability make it one of the leading products of the seafood industry.
What kind of fish is the amberjack?
The amberjack, scientific name is “seriola dumerili”, is a bluefish belonging to the carangidae family, a marine bony fish that lives in warmer seas, such as the Mediterranean or the Pacific. The amberjack is a pelagic fish, meaning that it is accustomed to living in deep waters off the coast, in fact it can live up to 300 meters under the sea level. The amberjack shape is oval and compact with two dorsal fins, the first is smaller and closer to the head, the second that almost joins the caudal fin, has a half-moon shape. The livery is very smooth with almost insignificant scales and iridescent color: the color of the amberjack varies according to its life stages; when the amberjack is young it has a pronounced yellow and silvery coat (in fact in this phase of life it’s known as LIMONCINO - literally little lemon fish) while, growing the skin of the amberjack becomes silvery with a golden stripe running lengthwise across the body and another frontal stripe on the head. The weight of the amberjack can reach fifty kilos, with a body that grows up to two meters in length.
What do amberjack feed on?
In its juvenile stage, the amberjack feeds mostly on seaweed, when it grows it feeds on smaller fish such as flathead mullets, garfish (also known as sea needle), anchovies, and mollusks such as European squids and cuttlefish. The amberjack’s behavior is typical of the pelagic species, characterized by a curious and voracious nature, perpetually searching for food. The amberjack can be predated by larger fish such as groupers, especially when not yet fully developed.
How does the amberjack reproduce?
In order to reproduce, the amberjack travels near shorelines and cliffs, where the water is warmer and it's easier to fulfill procreation rituals such as laying eggs. The breeding period of the amberjack goes from May to July and the amberjack species need to reach their full sexual maturity, which means reaching about four-five of age before they can mate. The hatchlings, i.e, the newly born amberjacks, take advantage of seaweed, jellyfish tentacles and floating objects to hide and grow safely in order to survive any predators.
All the types of amberjack present in Italy
The species of amberjack that are commercialized in Italy are 6 and they all belong to the carangidae family. These species of amberjack are identified in the Ministerial Decree n°19105 of the 22nd of September 2017, “Italian-language designation of fish species of commercial interests'', published in the official newspaper “la gazzetta ufficiale” on November 14th 2017.
The types of amberjack present on the Italian market are:
- Atlantic amberjack (seriola carpenteri) -(Known as Guinean amberjack)
- Local amberjack (seriola dumerili)
- Oceanic amberjack (seriola lalandi)
- Black-banded-trevally (seriola nigrofasciata)
- Japanese amberjack (seriola quinqueradiata)
- Longfin yellowfish (seriola rivoliana) - (known as almaco jack)
There is another fish called the Black ruff (known also as blackfish)(Centrolophus niger) that is not absolutely related to the amberjack: it’s a fish belonging to the Centrolophidae species and has different physiognomy, as it’s livery is dark, with shades of black and blue, and it has only one dorsal fin compared to the two of the “seriola”, it is smaller in size and it also has a different diet, based on jellyfish.
The differences between leerfish (known also as garrick) and amberjack: how to tell them apart?
To distinguish a leerfish and the amberjack, which to the untrained eye may look very similar, you just need to pay attention to small details: first the leerfish does not have golden stripes like the amberjack, secondly the leerfish has only one dorsal fin identical to the anal fin while the amberjack has two dorsal fins, a smaller one near the head and another almost attached to the caudal fin.
Where to catch the amberjack?
The amberjack fishing is widely practiced by professional and amateur fishermen, and it is a fish that can be caught both off-shore using boats, and from land with appropriate lines and rods. The amberjack can inhabit near reefs, marine areas with cliffs and shoals, at depths ranging from 20 to 200 meters.
What to use to catch the amberjack?
The amberjack is a fighting fish that will fight to the last before being caught. There are essentially two amateur fishing techniques, if we exclude spear and rifle fishing:
- amberjack fishing from shore, using a rod at least 4,5 meters high, that must be strong and equipped with a fishing reel capable of holding 45 kilos of weight. The reel spool must be wide and capable of holding as much as 400 meters of nylon and you need to set it up in coastal areas where the sea is deep, such as near marinas;
- trolling for amberjack, with an appropriate boat in terms of space, as hosting amberjack on board is not easy and a stable and heavy area of the boat is needed where the loading operation can be carried out. Strong rods are used for dragging fish from the seafloor, perhaps with particularly tough dacron or nylon lines.
What bait to use for the amberjacks? Generally live bait, as artificial junk baits are immediately recognized by the amberjacks. Mid-sized squid (also known as little squid), frigate tuna, garfish, European perch and saddled seabream is what is meant for live bait. Commercial fishermen use both classical fish traps and the purse seine technique. This technique involves dipping a circular net with two mechanized closing ends, which is released into the depths of the sea once the school of amberjack or pelagic fish in general are detected.
What time of year do you fish the amberjack?
The amberjack is mainly fished in the summer and autumn months, in a time frame from August to November, but it is also possible to find the amberjack at sea during winter months, a period when, among other things, it is mostly available on the market. Unfortunately, more and more often fishermen do not respect the minimum size of the amberjack and catch species that are not yet in the full reproductive phase, compromising the food chain and the survival of the species. For example, the overfishing of amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico caused NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, scientific agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, to study a regulatory amendment on the amberjack fishery to encourage its restocking in territorial waters, entitled “Modifications to Greater Amberjack Allowable Harvest and Rebuilding Plan”.
The purse seine method is the most used by professional fishermen even in Italy and leads to the progressive depletion of fish stocks and endangers the biodiversity of our seas, compromising the entire marine ecosystem. This is why we at Pescaria use Kingfish farmed amberjack, an excellent sustainable alternative to the traditional catch, the only amberjack production in Europe certified ASC (sustainable aquaculture) and BAP (environmentally responsible farming).
Farmed amberjack, what are the advantages?
For our amberjack recipes, we use farmed oceanic amberjack from the Dutch company named Kingfish Zeeland, an innovator of the method of the aquaculture recirculation system, which allows amberjack to be reared from land in controlled tanks. The advantages of using farmed amberjack are both environmental and organizational:
- Repopulation of the seas: the Kingfish Zeeland production facility is powered entirely by renewable energy, and using farmed amberjack disincentivizes intensive fishing, promoting repopulation of the species;
- Product safety: the aquaculture recirculating system makes it possible to cut down the presence of bacteria, harmful substances and microorganisms, thanks to a functional water purification system, preventing proliferation in amberjack of viruses that are potentially harmful to humans and effectively eliminating the presence of heavy metals always in amberjack meat, a problem that is found in species caught at sea;
- High quality of raw material: using a farmed amberjack makes it possible to maintain a constant standard of quality and supply of raw material, with the guarantee of always offering a tasty amberjack on the menu!
How to clean the amberjack?
Cleaning amberjack is very easy if you have a well-sharpened and supple fileting knife, perfect for obtaining precise amberjack filets. Like all bony fish, there is a specific procedure to follow when cleaning amberjack:
- Start by removing the scales with a spatula or a classic chef’s knife;
- Remove the amberjack’s innards by cutting the abdomen near the anal fin and draining it;
- Cut off the dorsal and ventral fin, also using scissors;
- Cut at the level of the gills transversely, incising the head to remove it from the rest of the body;
- Rinse both the gut pouch and the gill cut under running water;
- To cut out the first filet, incise the belly first and then the top, following the line of the back;
- To filet the amberjack, push the knife with the blade pointing towards the head, slightly raising the carved part near the caudal fin, giving strokes with the blade till the filet comes completely off the bone;
- To obtain the second amberjack filet, start by cutting first the back and then the belly, reversing the action;
- Having obtained the two amberjack filets, it is time to complete the cleaning process by incising the flesh where the bones and residual abdominal fat are present near the ventral flesh;
- Using suitable tweezers, remove the last bones that are in the meat;
- If you wish to remove the skin, make a transverse incision in the meat of the amberjack near the caudal fin and then push the blade in the direction of the head, maintaining an angle that favors the separation of the skin from the meat;
- Cut the two amberjack filets to the preferred and appropriate size to make the recipes
Amberjack Nutritional values
The amberjack is a valuable fish due to its nutritional components: it is rich in protein of high biological value, its fats are mainly unsaturated and of excellent quality such as Omega 3, it contains Vitamin D, and there is a fair presence of phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc.
But is amberjack a low-fat fish? The amberjack is a blue fish, not a white fish like cod or hake, despite this it is a medium-energy fish, also ideal for low-calorie diets as it does not contain a high volume of calories. 100 grams of amberjack provide 146 calories, and the nutritional values of amberjack are broken down as follows in terms of macronutrients:
Tips on how to cook amberjack
The amberjack meat is delicate, firm and has an unmistakable flavor. As with other types of pelagic fish (such as tuna), there are guidelines to follow in order to cook a delicious amberjack. For example, prolonged cooking would make the amberjack meat stringy and difficult to chew, while quick searing on a griddle or in a well-heated pan is preferred.
For the amberjack first course, our advice is to buy an entire amberjack and make use of the scraps from the cleaning, that is the fish bone and head, to make a delicious amberjack fumet to use in risotto and for mantecare (to cream) the pasta.
We at Pescaria have used Kingfish Zeeland amberjack in the “golden amberjack” sandwich with roasted amberjack filet, ginger mayonnaise, spinach suatè, potato rosti, and a mousse of Apulian cow cheese. Check out this sandwich!
Check out the menu at Pescaria!
3 recipe ideas with amberjack
Appetizers, starters and main course; amberjack is really versatile in the kitchen. There are many ways to cook amberjack, here are three amberjack recipes:
- marinated amberjack ceviche with tomato and friggitelli sauce: an ideal recipe to preserve the fullness and nutritional value of the meat of this delicious fish. Here is how to prepare it: use amberjack filets that have been rigorously blast chilled to avoid any harmful health viruses. Cut the amberjack filet into generous cubes of 1-2 cm thick and submerge them into water and ice for two minutes: the heat shock will make the meat crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Then dry the cubes and prepare a marinade with lime, oil and salt in which you will soak the cubes. Blend separately the yellow tomatoes, the red tomatoes and the green friggitelli peppers that have been duly chopped. Sieve the puree of each vegetable and place the obtained liquid in separate bowls. Prepare a chopped red onion and thyme, seasoned with a drizzle of oil and set aside. Serve on a soup plate, arrange the amberjack pieces on each different sauce and decorate the cubes with the chopped red onion and thyme.
- Bronze drawn linguini with amberjack, cherry tomatoes and black olive powder, a main course with amberjack that will make you appreciate the flavor of this fish more than ever! Here is how to prepare it: filet the amberjack and use the scraps to prepare a fish fumet. Toast the bone and the head in a large pot, add garlic, parsley, a piece of celery and a carrot, and deglaze with white wine. Add plenty of water and let it reduce by one-third. Clean the olives by removing the core, arrange them on a baking pan and bake at 90° for 3 hours, until the olives have lost excess liquid and have become crumbly. Reduce them to powder using a knife or a blender. Sautè yellow and red tomatoes in a pan with a drizzle of oil, favoring the cooking with the amberjack fumet. Cut the amberjack filet in mirepoix and suatè the cubes at high temperature for 30 seconds, maximum 1 minute and put aside. Cook the linguini in salted water for half of its cooking time, then continue cooking in a skillet, adding the amberjack fumet, favoring a sautè of the pasta that will take the amberjack flavor. When the pasta is ready add the tomatoes and the cubes of amberjack, mix accurately and place in a dish adding the sauce on the linguini and finish with a sprinkle of black olives.
- Amberjack filet with potato cream; if you want to prepare an impressive amberjack as a second course dish, try combining amberjack filet with potato cream, lime and coconut milk. All you need to do is portion a filet, sear it with all the skin in a hot pan, boil the potatoes and blend them with coconut milk and lime zest. Plate with a potato cream base, place the filet and garnish with fresh mint leaves.
At Pescaria raw fish is a certainty
On the menu at Pescaria, raw Kingfish amberjack is always available, we offer both amberjack tartare and carpaccio. We believe that raw seafood is the best way to taste and savor the exquisite scents of amberjack. If you would like to taste our Kingfish amberjack raw, drop by our restaurants: we are in Polignano, Trani (Apulia)), Milan (Via Solari and in Via Bonnet), Turin, Bologna, Verona and Padua.