On their third week of eating like a fish our participants are becoming more confident asking questions at markets, using whole fish, and cooking up some delicious meals!
Jean Dao from Massachussetts
"When my partner and I received our fish list for the week, we were ECSTATIC! Spiny Dogfish, soft shelled clams, sea scallops, and... lobster. For a long time, we had -- well, I had -- ranted about wanting to throw a lobster party, and what better time than Memorial Day weekend? Right away, however, my partner Peter reminded me that there was no way in heck he would be purchasing all that lobster at retail value; Red's Best was offering their whole, live lobsters at $17/lb and he could get it for $11/lb through their wholesale market, which he has access to through the restaurant where he works. Since that wouldn't be playing by the rules of the study, we decided to also purchase something else off our list at retail price. The lobsters came into the restaurant on Friday morning, waving their little feelers and generally looking quite adorably cross, as lobsters do. Some of them my partner prepped to be sold as a special in the restaurant -- dry fried with ginger, scallion, and Szechuan peppercorns -- and some we steamed whole. Peter managed to convince me that it would be easier to break down all the cooked lobster at the restaurant where all the tables are stainless steel and there was ample space for the mess we would make. Thinking back now about how much shell shrapnel and liquid sprayed everywhere -- this was definitely the right call. Clearly, I had never broken down ONE lobster before, let alone a dozen plus. At home, we browned a pound of butter, toasted up some potato rolls, and had ourselves a pre-party feast. The lobster was so sweet, juicy, and just a touch briney. And because of all the time I spent extruding meat out of all the legs with a rolling pin, it tasted so much better than any lobster roll I've ever had. This much I'll say -- I will never complain about the price of a lobster roll ever again! The next morning, we made our way down to the Boston Public Market for a "legitimate" purchase for Week 3. I had my heart set on Spiny Dogfish because we'd never had it before, but Red's Best didn't have it, and we unfortunately didn't have the time to go hunting around -- party was at 1 and it was already 10:30! They did have some huge, beautiful sea scallops and steamers, so we grabbed ourselves some of each. The steamers we tossed in a pot with some beer, Szechuan peppercorn, ginger, garlic, onion, and dill. They opened beautifully, tasted so sweet, and... were totally and completely full of sand. We forgot to purge them! Lessons learned for next time, to be sure. The scallops, since they had been cleaned already, we simply browned in a pan with butter, garlic, lemon thyme, and a spritz of lemon juice just before serving. So incredibly sweet and easy to eat -- I wish we had bought more, but at $28 a pound it was too much to be spending on top of all the lobster. Maybe next week..." This sounds like a party we want to be invited to!
David Ford from Rhode Island
"This week my choices were makerel, scup, grey sole and black sea bass. I struck out on all four at my two go to seafood markets - Andrade's in Bristol, RI and Tony's in Seekonk, MA. Both stores claimed they never carried makerel or scup since there was little market demand. Both said it was too early for local black sea bass. Tony's did have sole, which they originally told me was yellowtail sole (not labeled as such). They said they never carried grey sole. Later I did some google research and confirmed that Tony's was selling yellowfin sole, which is a Pacific Northwest fish. As I discovered, sole and flounder are closely related and can often be confused with each other. Another thing I learned is NEVER go to a popular fish market late Friday afternoon. All the good Catholics standing in a long line have little patience with me asking lots of questions about where the fish was landed and what type of fish it was. I did find whole black sea bass at Whole Foods on North Main in Providence. They scaled and gutted it for me. The quality was top shelf, but we all know we pay top price at Whole Foods. I steamed the fish in the oven on an oven rack set over a baking dish. The fish was too big for my steaming basket. I used a base of soy, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, fish oil, ginger, garlic, jalapeno, scallion. Heavenly. I need to eat like this more often!"
Christine Devito from Maine shared with us her battle with an Acadian Redfish:
"This week's fish selection, preparation and cooking proved to be a bit of a personal test to me; I found out what I was made of so to speak. The fish I chose to buy was Acadian Red Fish (aka Ocean Perch), whole, cleaned and gutted (all of which the folks at Harbor Fish market offered to do for me, and it was helpful and much appreciated by/ for myself as a consumer to not have to ask for these services amidst a very loud and crowded market).
At the start of the week I was originally excited about my fish list this week because it also included Swordfish, something I happen to be very familiar with and enjoy on account of its meaty, juicy, smooth and flakey-ness. I had gone to two other grocery stores before the fish market because of this familiarity and it was something I regularly see when grocery shopping. However, to my dismay, while they carried Swordfish, they did not have Swordfish that was landed in New England (they also did not carry the other fish from my fish list at all). I learned from the man behind the counter at Whole Foods that Swordfish only comes through local waters in the autumn. He further admitted that this is why much of their fish is not local because, in his words "it's impossible" otherwise to meet the wants and needs of shoppers. I made it a point to follow up and ask if people asked for more local species regularly, do you think a store like Whole Foods would carry them over other fish? He looked up and bobbed his head back a fourth, weighing the question and ultimately gave me an uncertain maybe. I took this bit of information with me (seems to be a big part of what this whole experiment is about) in my basket and moved on.
I ended up going to Harbor Fish Market who have yet to let me down as far as finding at least one of my fish species. I looked over all the fish and found Sword Fish but when asked where it was landed, they said the Carolina's, so no good. Then I found the Acadian Redfish. Not the prettiest fish in the sea with it's big, beady eyes looking up at me, and redish skin. From the look of it, one might think it was caught in some red sea and parts of that sea stuck to it even after trying to rinse it off. I struggled to pick some up based on these impressions. I thought to myself how I wouldn't buy this if it wasn't for the science project. I even automatically tilted backwards as I put the fish in my bag. Even now as I think about it my face frowns, much like the big lipped, frowny face of this fish. As I mentioned before, the folks at Harbor cleaned and gutted the fish, offered to chop the head, but I thought for presentation purposes I'd have them leave it. After working with this fish however, next time I would forget about the presentation and not only allow, but insist they chop off its head.
I looked up via the internet a few different recipes for grilling ( we were having a cook out with some friends) and decided to marinate the fish before wrapping it in tin foil and grilling it. It was a very easy fish to cook! I usually like to keep it simple with fish, because I know the flavor of it and enjoy that, this was new, and admittedly scary, so I decided flavoring it up with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and creole spice wouldn't be such a bad idea.
I mentioned earlier finding out what I was made of...well, while working with this fish my imagination got the better of me. I said out loud how I wouldn't be buying this fish again because of how the look of it gave me an icky feeling. When I placed it in the bag to marinate for a few hours, the tiny spikes (very tiny, barely discernible while raw) on the face and sharp, hardness near the gils pricked my hands through the bag. I jumped and dropped the bag as if the fish had somehow been alive this whole time and was just waiting to get me! I then doubled over laughing at myself and how ridiculous I was being. It's embarrassing really, but yes I was afraid of a dead fish.
I pricked myself a few more times but as I mentioned before the cooking of this fish was very easy and anyone who has cooked and grilled meat of any kind would be more than capable of cooking this fish. The fish tasted great ( a bit bony, but smooth, juicy, moderately meaty and soft)! All the mental battles I fought to make it were worth it. I shared it with friends and everyone liked it! I told them my silly story of preparation and they asked if I would buy it again now that I had eaten it and liked it. I hesitated and wasn't quite sure, but ultimately I think I would buy it again because of the taste, my new knowledge of it and found confidence, and I learned while seeking a recipe for it that it is abundant and highly sustainable here in Maine, which always motivates both my current consumer habits and the evolution of those habits. A friend of mine who joined us for the cookout brought and grilled Blue Fish; unwittingly our Memorial Day weekend cuisine included Red and Blue Fish, how fitting."
Andrea McCarthy from Connecticut
"My task this week was to find summer flounder, periwinkles, skate, or scup. The species I found was scup. It is also known as porgy. The name porgy comes from a Native American word for fertilizer. This was a common use for the fish because it was abundant and provided the soil with nutrients. Porgies are a smaller fish with a lot of bones, so they are usually sold whole. I filleted my fish and then pan-fried the fillets in a cast iron skillet. The meat was tender and flakey with a mild flavor. I paired my fish with salad greens and radishes from my local farmers market. My meal was easy to prepare, delicious, and scup is a very reasonably priced fish."
Kirstien Davidson from New Hampshire
"This week I decided to try some more spots since my first two weeks had been successful at Sanders. Luckily, my wonderful husband is still home for this week and could do some research for me! My fish list for the week was Razor Clams, Tautog (Blackfish), Herring, and Summer Flounder (Fluke). Previously, I have had fairly good luck with the fish at my supermarket of preference: Hannaford in Northwood, NH, mainly getting nice filets of haddock for my mother's chowder recipe. For this week, I had my husband start at Hannaford, but he struck out there. The next stop was Market Basket in Lee, NH. Again he had no luck. So now it was my turn! Again, I decided to try a new market, so after a Google search, I found Seaport Fish in Rye, which is just down the road from Portsmouth. I was hopeful I could find at least the Flounder, but talking with the fish monger there, he explained when they get flounder in, it's usually a mixture different varieties of flounder. The only way they could guarantee that I would have Summer Flounder would be to have the boat set it aside specifically for me. I left again, disappointed, but I do have a new source to check out each week! I decided before throwing in the towel for the week, I'd check Sanders once more. I lucked out again this week! They had Tautog freshly caught from Rhode Island, so even though it wasn't local to New Hampshire, it is in New England waters and still ok for the project. This was my first experience with this fish. I hadn't even heard of it before this week! So for cooking, I went to the best resource for finding fish markets or recipes: Google! There weren't many options, but I found THIS ONE and it ended up pretty well. The only thing I think would be different would be cooking the fish later, as it was cold by the time I finished with the sauce, but all in all, it was pretty good! We combined it this week with a butternut squash risotto and asparagus. The risotto was a big success and we've figured out the plane noises do work to get toddlers to realize they actually wanted to eat, but not quite enough to finish all of it."
Rindy Sicard from Rhode Island
"Traveling thru Bristol, Rhode Island this morning, I thought I would visit a local fish market since I was in the area. Andrade's Catch had some fish available but none locally caught. The peekytoe crabs/sand crabs were local and on my list ,so that was my choice. The taste if summer. It will be a crab boil tonight."
Aaron Whitman from Maine
"I walked into harbor fish today hoping that black sea bass was there because I've heard that it is a really good fish to eat and I've only had it once. That one time didn't turn out that well, it was boiled with no seasoning (I wasn't the one preparing it) and I wanted to give it a fair shot. They only had whole fish that still needed to be cleaned out. I was fine with cleaning it and purchased one. I went to pick up my kids from daycare and decided to showcase the whole fish to all the kids! They were all very interested especially when they saw a whole small scup in the sea bass mouth! I baked it seasoning the fish and body cavity with thyme, salt and lemon pepper with a bit of olive oil and white wine. 425 degrees for 30 mins (15 in aluminum foil and 15 without cover) and it was cooked perfect. The skin peeled off easy and the meat came off the bones with ease."
Christina Rodriguez from Rhode Island
"I grilled the scallops in a brown sugar and bourbon glaze. The sugar helps caramelize the edges and the bourbon adds a nuanced smokiness and hint of oak. They would've been great wrapped in bacon, or seared in a cast iron skillet."
Samantha Baasch from Massachusetts
"This recipe is a spin on a marinade that I enjoyed tremendously as a child growing up in Southeast New England. Made in-house of a local market the recipe nor the ingredients were ever disclosed. It was called a “Zippy Shrimp Marinade”. Since this market has since closed I have done my best to mimic the marinade as I remember it to keep it alive. This week I decided to purchase Swordfish after visiting 2 markets and only finding this species. The fish was caught locally off of George’s Bank and a perfect match for this marinade. This recipes make plenty of marinade for 2-3 swordfish steaks. Typically I would marinate the steaks for 2-3 hours but since it was a weeknight 1 hour had to do! Still turning out just as delicious as I remember.
½ cup Soy Sauce
½ cup White Wine
1 ½ Tbsp. Chili Oil
3 good dashes Worcestershire sauce
½ of a lemon Juiced
1 small onion minced
5 gloves garlic- minced
Handful of Fresh herbs – chopped
Black Pepper to taste
Deborah Majer from Connecticut
"I have eaten Sea Bass out in restaurants before but have never cooked it at home before or even thought about purchasing it to cook at home. I definitely will be having Black Sea Bass more often since I will be cooking it at home. I was surprised to find that this species is very common in my area. Robert Uberti is very knowledgeable and helpful. He even gave us a discount on the purchase of the fish! It has only been 3 weeks and it is a pleasure to talk with Robert and learn about different species from him. A really nice guy!"
Carolyn St. Jean Gogan from Rhode Island
"I love using quahogs to make real RI clear clam chowder. You can buy the canned clam broth but you really must steam your own quahogs to get that real rich clam broth. It takes more effort but always worth the time. And when making chowder don't add your chopped clams / quahogs until the chowder is just about done because over cooking makes them tough. I also used my quahogs to makes Stuffies. I make the filling for the stuffies a day before because all those wonderful ingredients need time to marry. So good!"