Friday, June 14, 2013

A Fish By Any Other Name Is More Appetizing

When you eat seafood, odds are you're going right for the big names: shrimp, tuna, salmon, cod, halibut, the like. The problem with that is there are only so many of those. Meanwhile, there are many fish with less attractive names, and many other fish called 'trash fish' that are simply thrown directly into the garbage upon being caught. Around here, we have wastebins for carp, our most famous resident invasive species. You catch a carp, you chuck it straight into the bin marked 'ROUGH FISH', and you keep on fishing.

The thing is, that's on you. If you ask the people doing the cooking in the restaurants, they'd love to be serving the less-popular fish. They'd love to serve the junk fish too. Whatever it is they can get you to eat. They deal with making fish into something tasty all the time. They know what's good. Michele Kayal of the Associated Press here goes into further detail about getting customers to eat the lesser fish- which can easily turn into popular fish.

They know it can be done. Lobster, after all, was not always a luxury food. It started out in colonial times as something you only ate when you absolutely had to and it was either that or starve. It was the era equivalent of ramen noodles. (Which, in turn, are also quite tasty when put in the hands of a pro.) This is an industry for which 'The Whole Beast' by Fergus Henderson- a book telling about how to cook every single part of a pig, from snout to tail to offal to the pig's blood- has become nigh-required reading. Done properly, no ingredient is off limits on taste alone.

And so it was that at last year's Taste Of Chicago- the world's biggest outdoor food festival- organizers arranged for carp to be cooked and handed out as free samples.

There is also the option, if all else fails, of taking a fish with an ugly name, giving it a prettier name, and putting it on the menu under the prettier name. You'll order Chilean sea bass. You're not ordering it under its other name, "Patagonian toothfish". Assuming that it even is Patagonian toothfish, which is not guaranteed. This particular route has a way of rankling the authorities, but it doesn't stop the restaurants.

After all, if you'd just eat your slimefish, they wouldn't have to call it orange roughy.

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