“What to do with your fish share when all you really want is a steak”
In the dead of winter when it’s too cold to head out and fish, all I dream about is eating fresh seafood. Then summertime rolls around, and I’m catching my own fish, friends are stopping by with choice cuts of their catch, my Dad is coming over with littlenecks and steamers he’s dug up in Chatham, and the price of lobster is so tempting, who can’t resist splurging on them and firing up the stockpot for a stovetop lobster bake? All of a sudden, I hit the wall and all I crave is a big fat New York strip steak. Sometimes this craving coincides with the delivery of fresh fish. What to do, what to do?
We are so indulged and spoiled in the Northeast with the abundance of fresh seafood, but when a situation as I’ve mentioned above kicks in, our Yankee thrift tends to take over and many of us desperately search for a way to save our seafood while maintaining its freshness. No one wants to put off eating seafood only to be left with two options: throwing it out or spending the weekend at one of our Nation’s finest hospitals getting our stomachs pumped. It pays to remember the phrase, “fish, like company, begins to go bad after three days.” So if you find yourself zipping over to Scituate to pick up your SOSSEXI fish share but your jonesing for a good steak, here are some options on what to do with your fish.
First and foremost, the fish we are getting from SOSSEXI is so unbelievably fresh, you truly have all weekend to decide how you want to prepare it. I have picked up my share, frittered away Friday and Saturday, and finally got around to cooking it up on Sunday, and it is still delicious. If you pick your share up, though, and you know you won’t be eating it within a day or two, you have several options, but I’m going to preface this by saying what I would say to my kids; “I’m going to be totally honest with you.” What I mean by that is, if you happen to get one of the more “oily” fishes like bluefish or mackerel, in my opinion these fish do not freeze well at all unless you plan to use them for bait. If you won’t be eating your share of bluefish, skate or mackerel right away, seriously, call a good fish-loving friend, grab a bottle of sauvignon blanc, and make a nice present of the two to your friend. You know what they say about karma; next time around you may be the recipient of something good.
If you get a share of flounder, monkfish, cod or any of the white-fleshed fish, these will freeze relatively well. Since air is the absolute worst enemy of fish in the freezer, if you have a vacuum sealer, now is the time to drag it out from the back of the cupboard and put it to work. A few years ago when we were catching a lot a stripers, we invested in one to preserve the many fillets you get off this fish, and it is worth every penny. Your fish will not suffer from freezer-burn, and it will taste ALMOST as good as fresh. Always defrost your packets in a bowl of cool water, and when you open them, rinse the fillets and pat dry with paper towels. If you do not own a vacuum sealer, you can freeze the fillets in ziplock freezer bags (make sure they are indeed the freezer bags), and press out all the air before freezing. Fillets will keep well for a month or two, but no longer without getting freezer burn. Never defrost your fish in the microwave, unless you want it to thaw and partially cook at the same time. Yuck!
Another great fish preserving gadget is the Smoker. We picked up one of these during a banner year of blue fishing, and next time we get some whiting in our share, they are going right in the Little Chief. If you find yourself with a share of bluefish, mackerel or whiting, you can buy yourself some time by throwing the fillets in some brine, smoking them up and enjoying them some time over the next several weeks in a dip or with bagels and cream cheese.
My favorite way to use extra white fish fillets like flounder or cod is to make them into fish cakes, to be frozen and enjoyed some time in the next three months. My friend Mikey Rottman, Sous Chef at L’etoile Restaurant on the Vineyard, says you can make your fish cakes and freeze them either before or after frying. He reminded me to tell everyone to freeze fishcakes on a sheet pan, then wrap individually and tightly in plastic wrap before placing in a ziplock bag to head back to the freezer. Make sure when you reheat them on a sheet pan to spray the pan with cooking spray to prevent sticking.
Recipe for Fish Cakes:
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of parsley
4-5 black peppercorns
1 stalk celery
1/2 small onion
pinch of kosher salt
1 pound white fish fillets like flounder or cod
2 Russet potatoes
1 T finely chopped parsley
1 T Dijon mustard
1/3 c. mayonaisse
5-6 shakes Tabasco sauce
1 T fresh lemon juice
Fill a deep frying pan with 3 inches of water and add the first six ingredients except fish. Bring barely to a simmer, add fillets, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool, remove fish and flake into a bowl. Keep in fridge until you are ready to mix the cakes.
Meanwhile, peel two Russet potatoes and put in a pot to boil. When cooked, run them through a food mill or ricer. If you don’t have one of these, mash them with the back of a fork as fine as you can. You do not want them to be gummy.
Add cooled potatoes to flaked fish, and add all remaining ingredients except breadcrumbs. Mix gently. Shape into 6 hockey puck sized cakes, and press into breadcrumbs to coat all sides. Place on cookie sheet.
At this point, you can either cook then freeze, or freeze immediately and bake later. If you want to cook them first, you can fry in hot oil until golden brown on both sides, cool on a baking rack, then freeze as noted above. Otherwise, place your cookie sheet in the freezer, freeze the cakes, then wrap individually, put in a ziplock and put back in the freezer until needed.
To reheat, turn oven to 375 degrees (it is best if you have a convection oven). Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, place unwrapped cakes on tray and bake for about 30 minutes. You might want to drizzle some melted butter on the top to brown them up. Check the internal temperature of the cakes to make sure they are hot. Serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.
Submitted by Kathleen Wright