Despite gar's reputation as a "trash" fish, it's more of a long overlooked delicacy. Gar meat is slightly sweet, with delicate flavor and a dense, somewhat meaty texture that makes it ideal for using in any recipe that calls for a non-oily, firm-fleshed fish. It's easiest to start with clean, cut fillets. However, if you're faced with cleaning a whole fish, try cutting the head and tail off and snipping the bony skin to split it. Then peel the meat away and fillet the meat, which is found along the fish's backbone.
Steaming garfish, whether it's whole or filleted, infuses it with the flavors of your steaming liquid while enhancing the tenderness of the meat. Put your steaming liquid in a large pot, along with any spices or seasonings you prefer. Try using a combination of water and wine, fresh citrus juice and/or broth. Garfish pair well with herbs such as oregano, thyme, parsley and scallions. Bring the mixture to a boil over high or medium-high heat, lower the heat and let it simmer for approximately 10 minutes before adding the fish. Put a lid on the pot and let the garfish cook for 15 minutes, or until it's tender and opaque.
Gar's sweet, sturdy flesh contrasts nicely with the crunchy, crispy exterior that you can achieve by pan-frying or deep-frying the fish. Grab 3 shallow bowls. Add some all-purpose flour to one. Beat an egg with a little water in another and put some fresh or dried breadcrumbs in the third. For extra crispy crunch, use panko breadcrumbs in place of regular. Dredge the garfish fillets, first in the flour, then the egg. End with the breadcrumbs. Heat some oil in a pan, pot or deep fryer and fry the fish in small batches, if necessary, for approximately 2 minutes per side or until the garfish is golden and crispy. Avoid overcrowding the pan to maximize crisping.
When it cooks, a garfish takes on a meaty texture that's similar to that of chicken. Like other white fish, garfish can withstand the heat of the grill. Season the fish well before grilling. In addition to herbs, citrus and white wine, garfish also pair well with onion, garlic, rice vinegar, sake, olive oil, soy sauce and tomato. Experiment with your favorite spices. Heat the grill on high heat. Add the seasoned garfish fillets and cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until the flesh is white and slightly flaky.
Making Fish Cakes
Like other tasty white-fleshed fish varieties, garfish make a tender, delicious variation on traditional fish cakes. Mixed flaked garfish meat with beaten eggs and breadcrumbs or mashed potatoes to bind all the ingredients together. Add aromatic vegetables such as onions and garlic, along with whatever other seasonings you enjoy, including seafood seasoning, cayenne pepper or fresh lemon juice. Mix all the ingredients together and form into patties. If the mixture is very sticky, try chilling it for approximately 15 minutes. Pan-fry the cakes for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until they are golden brown.