In the average American market, whole fish does not sell, nor does variety. On the east coast grocery store fish cases are limited to a few staples, shrimp, haddock, cod, salmon, swordfish, tuna, shellfish, lobster, with very little variance from store to store, and the fish are almost always in the form of a filet. In a sense it’s as if society has already made up the mind of the average consumer as to what’s for dinner. However the truth is, there’s more than cod swimming around within the ocean waters, particularly in our local east coast waters, and they are being harvested on a daily basis, but yet they are unavailable to the average consumer. We must demand local fish, lest you’d like to eat haddock every other week for the rest of your life. And why not try whole fish?
A week ago today I returned from Montreal, Canada with a whole fish (don’t tell U.S. customs), called a Dorade. Though it’s not a local species, seeing as they’re from the Mediterranean Sea, a recipe I had found in my new Fishmonger book inspired me to try it out. Unlike in New England, markets in Quebec are much more specialized, like those in Europe and other places around the world, and therefore there is much more variety within them. There’s a bakery for your breads, a deli for your meats and cheeses, a market for your produce, and a special market for your fish. The consumer is presented with the option of making their own dietary decisions rather than society deciding for them.
When I arrived home my mother and I decided to try out the new recipe recipe below. It’s quick and easy and is bound to impress any guest. We had eaten the entire fish before it even left the counter. My mum even insisted it was the most delicious fish she’s ever tasted. It’s always great to impress your own mother with your cooking. And the best part, it only took 25 minutes to do. You can try this recipe with any fish that is big enough to fill a pan; probably best if not more than 2 lbs.
Ingredients: 1-2 lb. Fish, Bay Leaves, 1 lb. of coarse Sea Salt, and Peppercorns
Lay the whole fish on top of a bed of salt with 3 bay leaves beneath it. Stuff the inside of the fish with a handful of whole peppercorns.
Place a bay leaf on top and cover the fish completely with the remainder of salt. Bake the fish at 425 F for 25 minutes.
When it’s done, peel back the layer of salt. With it should come the fish skin. Then remove the whole fish from the pan removing the other side’s skin. Alas you are left with a juicy, meaty, whole fish, with a few bones to pick through, which can be carefully removed all at once by withdrawing the spine. Why not try whole fish? Bonne appetit!