Red Mullet (Rouget)
(Mullus surmuletus/Mullus barbatus): WILD CAUGHT
FEWER FISH ARE PRIZED MORE in the Mediterranean than the Rouget, for it has a flavor that is so well complimented by the region’s distinctive and aromatic ingredients. Whether utilized in a bouillabaisse or baked or pan-fried and featured at the center of the dish, it is a highly coveted European delicacy (dating back to demand by the Romans!).
Both species Mullus surmuletus (Red Mullet) and Mullus barbatus (Striped Red Mullet) are distinctly crimson or even orange in color – but the barbatus boasts yellowish streaks along their sides and grow larger of the two. Both are caught without much distinction between the two commercially. They are typically quite small, less than 10-14 inches in length, and weigh about a third to a half of a pound each. The smaller the fish, it is commonly believed, the better the flavor and texture.
Rouget are better known in many areas of the world as the Red Mullet (or rouget de roche, salmonette). But according to various sources, Rouget should not be considered mullets at all. The name “mullet” is usually reserved for the various species of striped, grey and silver mullets, which are typically larger, longer and more streamlined in their body shape. The Rouget is similar in appearance to a perch (and is categorized under the Perciformes order) but is easily distinguished by a small set of barbels under its chin, which are used to “frisk” along the sea floor for food – an attribute that has also given it the name “goatfish” for their “beardlike” appearance.
The delicate white flesh is low in fat and high in protein. The scales are relatively large and easily removed. A favorite in European cuisine, the livers of these fish are considered a delicacy – many French recipes call for the whole, ungutted fish to be grilled, or to sauté the livers in butter and then stuff the fish with it before preparation. Broiling, pan and deep frying are typical preparations (not recommended served raw) as well as escabeche. Browne Trading imports ours directly from Portugal as catch allows – usually our fish our 150-250 grams each.