Author Archives: Barry Nash

Evaluating — and Eating — Lionfish

another fresh seafood idea

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Project team from left: Janelle Fleming, oceanographer; Barry Nash, North Carolina Sea Grant seafood technologist; Debby Boyce, Discovery Diving; Chef Tim Coyne and Libby Eaton, Bistro-by-the-Sea Restaurant. Absent is James Morris, NOAA. Photo by Vanda Lewis

Lionfish are infesting the Atlantic Coast of both North and South America, including off the coast of North Carolina. The invasive fish also have spread swiftly through the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the Caribbean.

Lionfish pose a significant threat to reef fish because of their high densities and general dietary habits. These fish, native to the Indo-Pacific, are known to feed on juvenile species that are important to commerce such as grouper and snapper. In the waters of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, Mexico and the Caribbean, lionfish have no known predators.

Some experts say that the only way to manage the North Carolina infestation is to develop a commercial fishery for lionfish and eat the invaders.

Janelle Fleming, scientific diver with Seahorse Coastal Consulting, presented these facts at a lionfish tasting session at Bistro-by-the-Sea restaurant in Morehead City. Tim Coyne, the restaurant’s executive chef, prepared a two-course lionfish meal — a slider appetizer and baked lionfish entrée.

The sensory session was held to determine how well lionfish could be adapted to culinary preparations typically crafted for mild-flavored, marine white fish such as triggerfish or grouper.

The lionfish, provided by Discovery Diving of Beaufort, were speared by sport divers. Discovery Diving was a partner in a Sea Grant-funded project to test various gear for selectively harvesting lionfish in deep ocean waters. The gear options were designed by James Morris, a fisheries ecologist with the NOAA Beaufort Laboratory who studies invasive species.

Forty-three self-professed seafood lovers from Carteret, Craven and Onslow counties were recruited to evaluate Coyne’s lionfish features. The participants had been involved in a similar series of sturgeon tastings in autumn 2013, funded by the N.C. Fishery Resource Grant program, administered by Sea Grant.

Tasters rated the appetizer as “very good” for flavor, texture, aroma and appearance. They liked the entrée, calling it “excellent.” Several noted the mild flavor of the meat and its flaky, firm texture.

Coyne shares the lionfish recipes below.

Lionfish Slider

Lionfish Slider. Photo by Vanda Lewis

Lionfish slider. Photo by Vanda Lewis

  • one 16 ounce lionfish fillet, cut in 2-ounce portions
  • tempura batter mix, available in grocery stores
  • 8 mini rolls/buns
  • oil for deep fat fryer
  • remoulade sauce, available in grocery stores

First, prepare the Asian slaw.

Preheat oil in deep fat fryer on high. While oil is heating, place 2 buns on each of the 4 plates with tops set aside. (Optional: lightly butter top and bottom of mini bun and toast.)

Coat front and back of lionfish with tempura batter mix. Test oil by sprinkling a touch of batter in oil. If the batter sizzles and rolls, the oil is hot enough. Turn down fryer one notch and carefully place lionfish in oil. Cook until golden brown.

Place 2 lionfish fillets on bottom of each bun. Top with a heaping tablespoon of slaw. Add one teaspoon of remoulade on slaw. Place top bun on slider. Assemble remaining sliders. Serves 4.

Asian Slaw

  • 32 ounce shredded red cabbage
  • 4 tablespoons red bell peppers, diced
  • 4 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons white sesame seeds
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 4 tablespoons white vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Mix all slaw ingredients together. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for 1 hour prior to serving on lionfish sliders.

Baked Lionfish

Baked Lionfish Stuffed with Spring Vegetable Mousse Topped with Lemon-Garlic Scampi Sauce. Photo by Vanda Lewis

Baked lionfish stuffed with spring vegetable mousse and topped with lemon-garlic scampi sauce. Photo by Vanda Lewis

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/2 cup red bell peppers, diced
  • 4 ounces blanched/cooked kale
  • 8 blanched/cooked spears of asparagus
  • 4 ounces blanched/cooked spinach
  • 8 ounces lionfish fillet (for mousse)
  • 1 egg white
  • 8 lionfish fillets, 3 ounces each
  • salt and pepper to taste, optional
  • paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in skillet until smoky. Place leeks in skillet to heat, but do not brown. Add other vegetables and mixed thoroughly. Remove vegetable mix from skillet and set aside to cool.

Next, in food processor, add 8 ounces lionfish fillets, egg white and vegetable mix. Pulse until well blended.

Place 4 lionfish fillets on greased baking sheet. Spoon 3 ounces of mousse on top of each fillet. Top mousse with 4 remaining fillets and sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

While the fish is baking, prepare lemon-garlic scampi sauce.

When fish is finished baking, place serving of stuffed lionfish on each dinner plate and top with warm scampi sauce. Serves 4.

Lemon-Garlic Scampi Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter to the skillet. Cook butter until foaming subsides. Raise the heat to high, add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add white wine and lemon juice. Boil the liquid until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir zest and parsley into the sauce. Set aside and keep warm.

Contributed by Barry Nash

Chargrilled Teriyaki Sturgeon

north carolina fisheries | sturgeon

  • 24 ounces sturgeon
  • 4 cups teriyaki glaze
  • 4 wonton crackers
  • wasabi paste as a topping (can buy in store)

Marinate 24 ounces of raw sturgeon in one quart of teriyaki glaze for 24 hours under refrigeration (<40 F).

To chargrill sturgeon, heat skillet on high heat. Sear both sides of a steak for no longer than one minute.

Top each wonton with wasabi, slaw and sturgeon. Serves 4.

Teriyaki glaze

  • 2 cups soy sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pickled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil

Mix ingredients together to make the glaze. Makes 4 cups.

Asian slaw

  • 8 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 cups each of julienned red cabbage, carrots and red bell peppers

Heat oil in pan until smoking. Add sesame seeds to toast. Set aside and cool.  Add rice wine vinegar. Mix vegetables and vinegar. Serves 4.

Recipe by Chef Tim Coyne of Bistro by the Sea, Morehead City, NC.

Steamed Sturgeon Salad

north carolina fisheries | sturgeon

fish and salad

Steamed sturgeon salad. Photo by Vanda Lewis

  • 8 ounces sturgeon
  • 8 sprigs arugula
  • 12 slices cucumber
  • 8 slices water chestnuts
  • 4 ounces artisan greens
  • 12 leaves Bibb lettuce
  • 4 wooden spears, each with one radish, one black olive and two cherry tomatoes

Place sturgeon on oiled steamer rack over boiling water. Steam until the fillets flake easily with a fork.

For each serving, layer 2 sprigs of arugula, 3 slices of cucumber, 2 slices of water chestnuts and ½ ounce of artisan greens in a Bibb lettuce cup (3 leaves). Garnish with wooden spear and vegetables and 2 ounces of steamed sturgeon. Serves 4.

Recipe by Chef Tim Coyne of Bistro by the Sea, Morehead City, NC.

Sturgeon & Bacon Appetizer

north carolina fisheries | sturgeon

Sturgeon appetizer. Photo by Vanda Lewis

Sturgeon & Bacon Appetizer. Photo by Vanda Lewis

  • 8 ounces sturgeon
  • extra virgin olive oil or butter
  • 4 strips bacon
  • 4 asparagus spears
  • 8 strips red bell pepper, julienned
  • 4 chive leaves

Sauté sturgeon in heated extra virgin olive oil or butter until fillets are opaque and cooked through. Cook bacon at 350 F until browned. Grill asparagus.

For each serving, wrap 2 ounces sautéed fish, one asparagus spear and two julienned red bell pepper strips with ½ strip of cooked bacon. Garnish with one chive leaf. Serves 4.

Recipe by Chef Tim Coyne of Bistro by the Sea, Morehead City, N.C.


Coming Soon to a Restaurant Near You: Farmed Sturgeon

North Carolina Fisheries: Sturgeon

Cultured Russian sturgeon. Photo by Vanda Lewis

Historically, sturgeon was considered among the finest seafood available along the East Coast of the United States. The fish was prized for its firm texture and delicate flavor.

However, the population of domestic sturgeon collapsed in the early 20th century and has never recovered. The Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, which are indigenous to North Carolina, remain on the endangered species list.

As a result, most American consumers are unfamiliar with this species, particularly as a source of nutritious protein.

Today, sturgeon are considered a valuable commercial species because of the high price of its roe, better known as caviar.

Currently two North Carolina businesses – Marshallberg Farm of Smyrna and Atlantic Caviar & Sturgeon of Lenoir – are culturing Russian sturgeon, Acipenser gueldenstadtii. These fish produce Ossetra caviar, considered second in quality behind the famed Beluga.

These farms use indoor recirculating aquaculture systems. The Russian sturgeon are raised indoors to prevent them from escaping into the wild. The recirculating systems capture effluent from the tanks and repurpose it for agricultural use.


Cultured Russian sturgeon. Photo by Marshallberg Farm

Originally business success for cultured Russian sturgeon depended solely on the production of caviar, a luxury product for which there is worldwide demand. However, Atlantic now has high-quality sturgeon meat available for sale. It is a source of nutritious, flavorful protein.

A market for fresh sturgeon has not existed in the U.S. for more than 100 years. As a result, consumers are unfamiliar with the superior quality of sturgeon meat, which is similar to grouper and swordfish – both popular and in short supply.

In 2013, North Carolina Sea Grant researchers collaborated Tim Coyne, executive chef at Bistro By The Sea in Morehead City, to develop a variety of culinary preparations using cultured sturgeon as the prime ingredient. In a series of tastings, some of the chef’s actual customers were invited to decide the cooking methods and flavor profiles they preferred most.

Chef. Photo by E-Ching Lee

Chef Tim Coyne, of Bistro By The Sea, prepares a sturgeon for a tasting panel. Photo by E-Ching Lee

In upcoming posts, we will share with you the sturgeon preparations that were popular with our consumer panelists. We also will provide an overview of the species and information on its nutritional value.

Barry Nash and John Burke

John Burke worked as a fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Laboratory in Beaufort, N.C., where he cultured commercially important fishes and conducted early life history and stock enhancement investigations. Though retired, his fascination for fishes hasn’t faltered. A resident of Marshallberg, N.C., he spends time culturing koi carp, and catching, consuming and creating watercolor paintings of local fishes.

Remembering Mariner’s Menu Author Joyce Taylor

EduJoyce_Colorcator and author Joyce Taylor passed away Saturday, Nov. 16, after an extended illness. She was 81.

Joyce grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina but called Carteret County, N.C., home for nearly 60 years. She began her career as a consumer seafood specialist in 1974 for North Carolina Sea Grant at the North Carolina State University Seafood Laboratory in Morehead City where she became known as the “Guru of Seafood.” Joyce received recognition and numerous awards for raising the public visibility of North Carolina seafood.

Under her leadership, a group of community volunteers developed kitchen-tested, seafood recipes using only the commercial species landed by North Carolina fishermen. The very best earned the approval of Joyce and her team, and were included in the group’s newsletters — and later in the resource manual Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas, for which this blog is named.

Friends are invited to gather to remember Joyce at the North Carolina State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, 303 College Circle, Room 205, Morehead City on Friday, Nov. 22, from noon to 2 p.m.

To learn more about Joyce, go to

Chef Profiles: Gerry Fong

seafood traditions

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Chef Gerry Fong
Photo by Kent Graham

Chef Gerry Fong learned how to eat from his parents, Henry and Mary Fong, which, as Gerry says is “the basis of how to be a great cook.” Gerry’s parents were successful restaurateurs for more than 20 years in Rockingham and Laurinburg, N.C.  They taught him the importance of quality ingredients, in part, by taking him at a young age to many fine-dining restaurants in New York City.

As Gerry grew up, he explored other occupations but always found himself returning to the kitchen. After college he traveled to the Philippines and worked on a hog farm in Laurinburg. Eventually, he followed his mother’s advice and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. There, the culinary fundamentals his parents had instilled were honed and refined.  He also met his wife, Mariah, while attending the Culinary Institute. After graduation, they traveled the country to explore regional cuisines while working. Their jobs included stints at the Ritz-Carlton, Willoughby Brewing Company in Ohio and at Ashten’s in Southern Pines, N.C.

Gerry’s culinary journey eventually took him back to New Bern. At Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant, Gerry serves food that reflects his life: playful, precise, tasty and of the highest quality. Gerry also is dedicated to supporting local fishermen and never forgets his Chinese-Carolinian roots, marrying the two ’til he achieves food nirvana!

Contributed by Barry Nash