My favorite part about being a seafood blogger is when I get to try a new fish. If not for this blog, I would be perfectly happy sticking to all the great locally caught seafood here in New England. Now I actively seek out new and interesting seafood products so I can share the experience will all of you. One of these is a fish called cobia, which is an increasingly popular species for aquaculture. There are several companies raising cobia, but the one that grabbed my attention is called Open Blue.
I met the Open Blue folks in Boston at SENA 2019 and they seemed like a happy group, very proud of their product. When I asked where can I find their cobia, they told me that Stop & Shop will carry it. When I asked at my local store, they didn’t know what I was talking about. Then months later strolling by the butcher window I see a bunch of small frozen fish fillets unceremoniously dumped into a freezer case. Lo and behold here was the Open Blue Cobia I was waiting for…or so I assumed.
The cobia only had a printed store tag with no brand name. I contacted both Open Blue and Stop & Shop to verify and they both confirmed this was the cobia I was looking for. So I grabbed 4 frozen fillets of Open Blue Cobia, a fish you would otherwise probably not see in a fish market.
Cobia (Rachycentron canadum) also known as crabeater or black kingfish are found in warm to tropical waters. They can get large in the wild, up to six feet long with a flat head and long tapered body similar to their relatives, the remoras. Although it is a white fleshed fish, cobia has an impressive amount of Omega 3 fatty acids, even more than wild coho salmon.
Cobia are mostly solitary in the wild and because of this, there is not an active commercial fishery. However due to the fact they follow other, larger fish in search of food, they do end up as a by-catch of shrimp and mackerel fisheries. The large size and good taste make cobia a popular sport fish.
If there were a viable commercial fishery, cobia could be an ideal food fish. It’s life-cycle, hardiness, and fast growth rate make them one of the best candidates for warm-water offshore aquaculture. This style of fish farm, although more expensive to operate can have a minimal impact on the local ecosystem. This is where Open Blue Cobia stand out from other cobia farms.
About Open Blue
Open Blue was founded in 2007 and is based out of Panama City, Panama, where their HACCP-certified processing plant is located. Vertically-integrated, Open Blue employees cover the entire process from marine biology to supply chain and sales. Their adult fish are raised to harvest size 8-10 miles off the Panama coast at depths of about 200 feet. Divers are used to feed and tend to the cobia, which is labor and cost intensive, but leads to a high quality product that does very little to impact the environment.
High quality cobia, raised responsibly by a company committed to the environment and their employees, tends to get some recognition. The Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Friends Of The Sea, BAP and others have recognized Open Blue Cobia. These fish have also been certified Kosher by OU as well as IFNCA Halal certification.
The Product: Open Blue’s Ocean Raised Cobia
The fillets of cobia I bought were small, but thick and looked more like a section of loin than a fillet. Each was about a quarter of pound in weight and I assumed they were near the tail based on the shape. The meat was clean looking with a pinkish hue before cooking. After thawing the fish was still firm, with a clean smell, no trace of fishy odor.
Recipe: Open Blue Cobia, Sear-Roasted With Sage/Thyme Butter
This is a modification of a recipe I found on the Open Blue website. It also happens to be a low-FODMAP recipe too if you watch portion sizes and choose an appropriate side dish.
- 4 fillets Open Blue Cobia (approx 1lb)
- 1Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1Tbsp Butter
- 2-3Tbsp Sage/Thyme Compound Butter
- Salt and Pepper
- Juice of 1 Lemon
Prepare the compound butter ahead of time by combining room-temperature butter (about a stick), salt, pepper, lemon juice and chopped sage and thyme. Roll the herbed butter into a tube using parchment or plastic wrap then close up and let it set up in the refridgerator. This makes much more than needed for the recipe.
Preheat oven to 425F. Have a heavy, oven-safe sauté pan ready on a burner with a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter. Remove the Open Blue Cobia from the packaging and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. When the pan is nice and hot place the cobia fillet in the pan and let them sear on one side for about 5 minutes. Then flip the cobia, top the fish with pads of compound butter and place the pan in the oven for about 10-15 minutes depending upon thickness. The cobia should be white and opaque at this point. Squeeze a half a lemon over everything before plating.
The Verdict: Open Blue Cobia
They way I prepared it, cobia reminded me of swordfish, not exactly like swordfish, but it is very similar. The cobia has many of the aspects that I love about swordfish: firm, steak-like texture with white clean tasting meat. However cobia has a large flake that reminded me a little of cod. The compound butter with sage and thyme really complimented the natural sweetness in the cobia and I felt gave a seasonally appropriate flavor as we head into late fall.
My only criticism is that the cuts I bought had a lot of darker “blood line meat” that tasted stronger than the rest. I wouldn’t say “fishy” but close, similar to when swordfish is overcooked. Perhaps a few minutes less in the oven would’ve helped, but I can’t say after just one time. I would like to try to cook a larger piece, with less of the darker meat to see if it makes a difference. Stop & Shop has already stated they do not plan to sell larger portions of Open Blue Cobia so perhaps I’ll contact the Company directly.
Overall, Open Blue Cobia is a delicious, versatile, white fish that is easy to prepare. A little bit unique, a little bit familiar cobia is a good choice to branch out from the usual fish at the market while staying with a mild flavor profile. Keep an eye out for it, I have a feeling we will be seeing more Open Blue Cobia on menus in the near future.