Corvina an ideal canvas for seasonings

June 15, 2018

On a recent trip to the fish counter, I found something I'd not seen before - meaty, pinkish filets labeled corvina. According to the woman behind the glass case, corvina is a member of the drum family of fish. She went on to describe the flavor as rich without being oily, with a flaky, tender texture. She didn't have a recipe to share, but assured me I'd find something online.

When I looked for suggestions about cooking the fish, I accidentally typed "corvino" which is the name of a fancy restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri. It has an elegant website that first presents an almost black screen - like a wrong turn down a dark alley. Corvina is also the name of a wine grape used in various red blends. When I corrected my error, I found all sorts of fun facts about corvina, the fish.

Corvina is a generic name for almost 270 different species known as "drums" or "croakers." They earn their designation of either drum or croaker because of the sounds they make when seeking a mate. They can be so loud that a number of fishermen and -women have posted YouTube recordings. In fact, a community built along a canal in Florida blamed the municipal utility system for the noise the residents were hearing.

Fortunately, before the city council voted to spend almost $50,000 on an engineering analysis, a doctoral student at the University of South Florida advised the skeptical homeowners that they were hearing black drum mating calls. These sounds have a very low frequency and long wavelength, enabling the drumming sounds to carry through the sea walls of the canal, through the ground and then into the waterfront homes.

Corvina varieties (specifically, fish from the Sciaenidae family) range in size from under a pound to hundreds of pounds. They are found worldwide in temperate and tropical waters, both fresh and salty. Atlantic croaker live along the coastal United States, while Gulf Corvina inhabit the Pacific and Gulf of California. Most of the corvina sold here comes from Central America.

Corvina can be prepared in any number of ways: broiled, baked, steamed, poached or grilled. Simple recipes for pan-frying corvina include the one for the filets in the photo, flavored with sautéed garlic. I've also included one with bright, salty notes from capers and shallots. Additionally, corvina can be cooked in parchment or foil packets on a bed of baby spinach or other tender vegetables. Because of its light flavor, corvina is an ideal canvas for your favorite seasonings.

Pan Fried Corvina 

12 oz corvina filet 
salt & pepper, to taste 
1 t paprika 
2 t olive oil 
1 T butter 
3 chopped garlic cloves 
1 T snipped parsley 
lemon wedges 

Rinse the fish and pat dry. Sprinkle one side with salt, pepper and 1/2 t paprika; set aside. Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium. Once the skillet is hot and the butter is melted, add the fish, seasoned side down. Cook until half the thickness has turned opaque, about 4 minutes. While cooking, sprinkle top with salt, pepper and remaining 1/2 t paprika. Flip the filet and add chopped garlic to the skillet. Continue cooking until completely opaque, another 4 minutes. Remove from heat and cover; allow to rest for about 2 minutes before serving. Plate fish and garnish with lemon wedges and snipped parsley. Yield: 2 servings.

Corvina & Capers 

12 oz corvina filet 
salt & pepper, to taste 
1 T butter 
1 T olive oil 
1 minced shallot 
1/3 C dry white wine 
juice and zest of 1 lemon 
2 t capers, drained 
1 thin-sliced green onion 

Season the fish lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Place the fish in the pan and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides and opaque throughout, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the filet to a warm platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Add shallots to the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir in wine and lemon juice; increase heat to medium-high and boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the capers, green onion and lemon zest.

Cut fish in half onto 2 plates and drizzle with sauce. Yield: 2 servings.

Corvina & Spinach Packets 

4 oz baby spinach 
salt & pepper, to taste 
1 diced Vidalia onion 
1/2 t tarragon* 
12 oz corvina filet 
2 T rice wine vinegar 
2 T butter 
lemon wedges 

Preheat oven to 425 F. Tear off two 18-inch lengths of aluminum foil. Coat the surface of each with nonstick cooking spray.

Divide the spinach in half and mound in the center of each piece of foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place half the onion and half the tarragon on each mound of spinach.

Rinse and pat dry the fish; cut in half.

Season each piece with salt and pepper on both sides. Place fish on top of the spinach. Pull up the sides of the foil and drizzle each filet with 1 T rice wine vinegar.

Cut the butter into small pieces and scatter 1 T over each filet. Securely fold the foil to seal the packets and place on a baking sheet. Bake until fish is cooked through, about 15 minutes. To serve, unfold the packet over a shallow soup bowl, slide out the spinach and fish, pour remaining juices over the bowl. Garnish with lemon wedges.