Here Are a Few Tasty Ways to Relieve Your Wallet, and The Sea

by Owen James Burke

Trash-Fish

(Illustration by Laszlo Kubinyi/Garden & Gun)

Seafood stocks are in decline, marine scientists are concluding, and whether or not your interest is in the lushness of your pockets or the sea, it’s high-time to start passing on the tuna tartare (which may just be the single-most over-served, boring seafood dish on the planet). Here are a few fish to consider going forward which will not only please your wallet, but your palate, too.

lionfish

(Illustration by Laszlo Kubinyi/Garden & Gun)

Lionfish

The lionfish has been the most vilified of all the invasive fish species along the Atlantic seaboard and, sadly, for good reason. It’s a shame they have to suffer as a result of a few mistakes made by humanity, but on the other hand, their flaky white meat should come as a blessing when we consider the state of reef fish stocks, especially in the Caribbean. Fishermen and fishmongers alike are intimidated by this spiny, venomous fish, but fear not (we’ve found our way around a monkfish, haven’t we?). There are plenty of tutorials on how to fillet these fish without ending up with swollen sausage fingers. Chef Bun Lai of Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, Connecticut makes lionfish ceviche, and Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami, Florida claims to make a mean sandwich with them. If you’re living in the tropical Atlantic or Caribbean and these fish are littering your local reefs, you have no excuse for going hungry. For more recipes, get your hands on a copy of The Lionfish Cookbook, published by Reef.org.

Jolthead-Porgy

Porgy

Having grown up in porgy-rich waters, I’ve always felt blessed to have these fish grace my hooks. Mild but firm white meet make them amenable to all sorts of cooking. They’re a perfect pan-sized fish, and despite popular American comfort (we can’t stand to have our food looking back at us), these fish taste WAY better when left whole. It should be considered a crime not to enjoy the supple cheek and collar meat of these perfect — and populous — cousins to the snapper family, which, in all truth, could use a rest.

Squirrelfish

Squirrelfish Snapper

The squirrelfish snapper, of all the snappers, seems to be the least-sought in the western hemisphere, and I’ve never been able to figure out why. Granted, I’ve cut myself on their spiny gill plates more times than I care to recall, they fare excellently on the table. Apart from their generally smaller size, and much like the porgy, they’re nearly indistinguishable in flavor from the red or mutton snapper.

Southern-Stingray

Stingray and Skate

Stingray and skate have been feature items on menus in Europe, but they’ve been a hard sale in the U.S. Little do most scallop-lovers know, that “scallop” sale at the supermarket is likely not scallop at all. Fishmongers and fishermen have, for many years, been devising a rather ingenious scheme to market stingray and skate, whose stocks, some might argue, are doing almost too well. Using something like a cookie cutter, a popular method of serving the wings of these cartilaginous fish and labeling them as scallops. Who knew? Only but a few. And really, who cares? They’re delicious. Cleaning these fish is no easy task, and could be likened to skinning a shark, but once in the pan with a little white wine, butter and capers, is well worth the effort.

Read more in Garden & Gun‘s “Guide to Trash Fish” — OB

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