Fried porgies are the main course of the simple Italian American seaside kitchen. I remember as a kid going to the dock at Cold Spring Harbor when the fishing boats came in. While I don’t remember the main catch the boats held, I do remember the fishermen literally throwing handfuls of porgies from the boat onto the wood boards of the dock. I don’t remember either if they charged for them or they were free. I do remember that they were Friday dinner. Eventually there were no more fishing boats and the dock house became a restaurant.Recently even the restaurant closed. Now Cold Spring is all but forgotten. Somewhere along the line porgies disappeared from the table.Then, came the Asian grocery stores with their extensive fish counters. And there they were again: the porgies of my childhood. Although porgies may have once been considered trash fish, they are anything but. The flesh is creamy and delicate.
When deep fried, as I do here, the skin becomes a wonderful contrasting crust. The one problem with porgies, as this is probably why they were discarded, is that they have an extensive dorsal bone system. But, if you are aware of the dorsal bones, and you can maneuver a broad blade knife or spatula in such a way as to remove them as you lift the first filet from the center bones, you have a beautiful piece of fish to enjoy. Taking the cue from Asian cooks, I use a wok to fry the porgies rather than a deep fat fryer. In this recipe I’ve served with fish topped with a fava bean scafata (see our scafata recipe) and with pureed yams. But you can also dress the fish with an Asian soy sauce, green onion and sugar dip, or with just plain lemon.
What you need
Getting it together , the mise-en-place
Plate and serve
The sides here are "scafata," fava been stew and pureed yams.