Friday, October 29th, 2010 | posted by mike
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. When we opened our market in 1979, America’s fish diet was fairly limited. Mild white fish such as scrod (small codfish), sole, Great Lakes fish (whitefish, lake trout, walleye, perch and smelt), were popular. High-end items such as lobster and king crab were big. Brave souls might branch out and try something a little different like swordfish or halibut—but for the most part, the big sellers were pretty tame and mild. Tuna was just in the process of moving from a mostly canned product to a high-end sushi grade fish. Sardines and anchovies hadn’t yet found their way out of the tin. Squid and octopus were from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Being in a college town, people from all over the world would come in and request some pretty weird, wild but interesting stuff. We soon learned that no matter how small, fat or lean, or large, or ugly or slimy or pokey or bizarre— someone in the world knew just what to do with it and make it taste great. If a Japanese customer wanted raw sea slug guts or live sea urchin, herring roe on kelp, giant geoduck clams (with the foot long foot) or monkfish liver, we’d find it. Need a live eel for Italian Christmas dinner? How about a live 10 lb snapping turtle for turtle soup or a 6 ft. long octopus?
I began to realize all those years ago, that maybe there was no such thing as a “trash fish” or even an underutilized species. Fish that used to be thrown overboard by the U.S. fishermen include skate (very popular in France & Korea), Dogfish (sand shark, used for fish & chips in England), Sea Robin (a.k.a. French Rascasse, a key fish in bouillabaisse), Monkfish (which had to be marketed as “poor man’s lobster” in order to sell and get people to even try it).
Small bony fish like sardines, whiting and croakers and darker fish like bluefish & mackerel all are great eating fish. Carp, the ultimate American trash fish is loved in Asia and is a major sports fish in Europe. So, the next time you’re at the fish market and you see something a little unusual, take a walk on the wild side, try something new. We’ve got recipes for almost anything.
Here’s the classic French preparation for Skate with Caper Brown Butter.
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, sea robin
, sea slug guts
, sea urchin
, trash fish
, unusual species