It's been in the news a lot recently - eating fish is good for you. Sure, there is
the mercury concern,and I would be wary of certain closed bodies of water, but far in
large, fish is one of the healthiest foods you can consume. This, I believe, is in
large part because it is wild - free from hormones, processed feed, and chemical
Of course, it's not just any fish they say. Preferably, fish higher in Omega 3 is
better. Omega 3 is found in fish oil, so it goes naturally that the oilier the fish
is, the more beneficial it is to consume. Salmon, tuna, swordfish are often
mentioned, but truth be told, herring, bluefish, and mackerel are the highest in
Omega 3. The problem is that the typical New Englander has grown up on a steady diet
of cod, haddock, and flounder - flaky, white, delicate flavored fish - with the
lowest fish oil content of most species. I know of many a Yankee who would never
think of venturing away from these favorites. And, because of this, incredible pressure
is placed on these species, resulting in a chronic overfishing problem. Sometimes
this relunctance to consume a different species is a result of having been served a
poorly prepared alternative at one point, and other times it may result from not knowing
that a particular species is not only edible, but when prepared correctly, offers a
unique taste that can expand your menu from the same fish dish boredom.
That is the purpose of this focus article. To introuduce you to new species that are
not only edible, but offer a unique taste that will allow you to expand your fish
recipes. This list only covers saltwater fish that you can catch out of any south
shore port. To me, those are the species you can trust. I have no idea where Chilean
Sea Bass or Orange Roughy comes from, or how it is handled once caught. Why we
import such species is beyond me, when you consider that we have the best fish anywhere
in the sea right here off our coast. My list starts with species most similar to the cod, haddock, and flounder.
Start at the top, and as you enjoy each new species, try the next one in the list.
If you reach the end, you will have strayed far away from the typical New England
fish-n-chips. Bon Appetit!
Did you know that 90% of all
packaged fish sticks are actually made from pollock. Go ahead, check the ingredients -
Gortons©, Mrs. Pauls©, Van de Kamps© - all pollock. The fish you loved as a kid has a
taste and texture very similar to the cod. Which is not surprising as the pollock is
a very close cousin, eating a similar diet and living in the same general area. The taste
is a little, and I do stress little, stronger and the color is a tad darker. However,
taste is almost identical and you can prepare it the same way you do cod. Price is
often half that of cod or haddock.
Another close cousin of the
cod is the hake. It's flavor, texture, and color is actually more delicate than the
cod. Prepared incorrectly, it's virtually tasteless. It doesn't freeze and thaw well
and is much more flaky and far less firm than cod. Nonetheless, it is an excellent
alternative to cod and when prepared with some flavorful ingredients, is simply
delectible. About 25 to 40% less per pound than cod or haddock.
Very similar to hake, but with
a bit more flavor and firmer texture. The meat holds up better in stews and chowders
than hake and it doesn't get too chewy if overcooked. Cusk is rarely sold in stores, mostly due to
it's very limited supply.
One of the best kept secrets
if you ask me is the taste, texture, and color of the wolffish fillet. It is simply
devine. The diet of the wolffish consists largely of lobster and clams, and the sweet
taste and texture of those seafood staples is absorbed into the meat of the wolffish.
However, how many people are going to purchase something called "wolf fish,"
which is why you'll never see this available in stores. You will, however, find
ocean catfish, which is the marketing name for this fish. In fact, you'll see
a lot of this name changing going on in the marketplace. Some species simply
don't sound appealing or they're extremely ugly and the sellers don't want you to know
what the fish looks like, so they change the name. One of the most popular fish
at the market today is the Patagonian Toothfish, but consumers only know it as "Chilean
Just when you thought that
Wolffish is the ugliest fish you ever saw, comes the Monkfish. This fish takes the top
award as far as the ugliest fish to live in the sea. The tail is the only part of the
fish eaten and is nearly identicial in flavor, texture, and color as the wolffish fillet.
Bright white in color, when the meat of the monkfish is boiled and dipped in butter
it nearly tastes like lobster.
This fish surprises me a bit.
Although I've seen thousands of them caught in the nets of commercial ground fishermen,
I can't ever remember seeing it available in your local grocery store. However, if
you find yourself catching a few while you're cod fishing, don't throw them back
just because they're ugly. Their meat is bright white and very firm, making it
an excellent fish to cut into chunks and toss in a chowder. Be careful not to
overcook it, and make sure you skin it, or you'll end up with a very rubbery and
extremely chewy piece of fish.
Of course no one is going to
purchase and consume a species known as "dogfish," so that is why you will find this
fish marketed as "Cape Shark" either at the grocery store or the restuarant.
These are those pesky small sharks that swim all over the south shore during the summer.
When handled properly and iced immediately after capture, their meat is white and mild
to the taste. I've heard it compared to the popular mahi-mahi in both taste and
texture. Improperly handled, however, and it takes on an ammonia-like taste and
scent. Interestingly, the spiny dogfish is the primary species used in Great Britain
for their famous "fish-'n-chips.
When the wings of the skate
are punched with a cookie cutter, they make "poor-man's scallops." Can't say I've ever
tried this, but those that have swear by it. In fact, I've been told that when properly
prepared, the only way you can tell the difference between skate wings and actual scallops
is in the direction of the lines. Cut a scallop in half, and the texture lines go up
and down; cut a skate wing chunk in half and the lines go across.
Striped bass begins the
the "non-whitefish" species. Fish that must be handled more carefully and prepared
more promptly that the typical New England whitefish species. You don't want to
repeatedly freeze and thaw it, as each succssive thaw will render the fish stronger
tasting. However, when handled properly, striped bass can be one of the tastiest fish
that you'll ever cook.
As you get down the list here,
we come to fish that walk the fine line between bait and food. Bluefish are much
stronger tasting and a much oilier fish than all the others listed above. This oil is
extremely rich in the all important Omega 3, but it doesn't matter if it tastes like
bait on the plate. The key to bluefish is how it is treated the moment it is boated.
Any fish that fights like crazy, unfortunately dies quickly and deteriorates rapidly.
If you intend to eat this fish, they must be dressed immediately after capture and
placed on a bed of ice. Then, when filleted, the skin should be removed and as much
of the bloodline removed at that time. If the fillet is gray with little dark red,
you have done a good job. Marinate the fillet 12-24 hours in Italian dressing and
you will have one awesome tasting fillet to put on the grill.
Now, we really begin to blur
the lines between bait and food. Due to our past of consuming cod and haddock, few
New Englanders find mackerel appealing to eat in any form. That's too bad because
mackerel can be real treat when handled and prepared correctly. It is naturally
stronger and darker than bluefish and should be marinated, smoked, or broiled in
lemon juice to cut down on the strong flavor.