I’ve always been a fan of fish. Most fish, anyway. I don’t eat shellfish or bottom feeders due to religious beliefs and shy away from them. But, I do love looking at them and even cooking a variety of “untouchables” for my friends and clients.
Of the fish I do eat, I’m always on the hunt for something new to try out. I grew up camping in tents just about every weekend. One of our family “must-do” activities during our weekends was fishing. It was such a big deal that we each had our own rods, would reel in our catch and eventually would scale our yummy findings. However, and a big fat however—I used to be mortified of lake water! Hahaha! When I was 7 or so, I slipped off a mossy rock and fell into 4″ of polluted water and lost all common sense and coyness. I screamed louder than a missing child’s mother and violently cried while my parents laughed (as they yanked me back to safe landing). Imagine that. Me, the one that now parasails 700 ft up in the air above clear blue waters and loves everything unknown below me.
The most adventerous encounter with raging waters was a few years back while traveling in Mexico with my family. We chartered a catamaran and went for a deep sea fishing excursion. Well, in between throwing my line and sunbathing (b/c every girl has to even out those bikini lines), my sister and I decided to dip into the brisk water. But it wasn’t any kind of dipping. Picture this: we laid on our stomachs at the very end of the mesh platform, anchored our feet in between the frame and dunk half of our bodies into the ocean; all while the boat sped into massive open space. That lasted for about one full minute until the sailor screamed “SHARK!!!!”
S*&@! Sis and I nearly broke our lower backs trying to pull up against gravity… Yeah, not the smartest thing to do when we were advised the ocean had plenty of human eaters out there. But hey, we were looking for a thrill and we got it!
That incident didn’t freak me out, though the potential risk of a shark taking bite of my limbs, let a lone my head put things in perspective. Don’t give them guys reason to like you! And, thank God I grew out of my childhood fear of falling into water. I’d be no good today if I still were. I love being in the water and every chance I get, I enjoy fishing and becoming one with earth’s most natural element.
I also have become much more conscious about where my food comes from and how its raised, farmed, caught, treated and how it affects our environment. We have to treat it well because after all, our air gives us life. Without a healthy environment we can not be healthy people. I won’t bore you with my philosophy, but my appreciation has been underscored as I read more and more about sustainable living practices in Cuba. It only makes sense.
So, with this month’s 5 Star Makeover round-up theme of sustainable fish, I had no qualms with picking a fish that has scared most of us. Jaws, anyone? Yeah, that kind of shark.
Truthfully, I probably would have chosen a more popular fish to keep with the topic. But, I wanted to try something I’d never eaten. According to the resources Lazaro (co-host of 5 Star Makeover) shared in his themed recipe, not all shark is sustainable. In fact, of the three varieties, Spiny Dogfish, the one I chose to work with, is classified as a “good alternative”. Not the best, but it worked. Unfortunately, and news to me, shark is heavily caught and moreso accidentally because they get mixed in with other intended target. Additionally, because of their slow maturity and meager reproduction rate there is a high shortage level. Generally speaking, most shark is recommended to be avoided with halibut being a suitable substitute.
It took me some time to find the exact species of shark (caught in British Columbia) that would be sustainable and satisfy the theme. Most shark sold in local farmers’ markets are American caught and are the ones that fall into the “avoid” category. When I found mine, I was lucky to have steak cut options. But at this point, I was completely clueless on what to do with it. If I considered that halibut was a good substitute, I erred on the side that something fresh and minty would work. I also wanted to balance it with something robust and earthy.
I did a simple lemon and garlic marinade and panfried it.
I went to my quickly depleting stash of black truffles to make a white wine truffle sauce the fish would sit on. I could have eaten that alone. I’m still having an affair with my truffles if you haven’t noticed! 🙂 I sautéed a few purple potatoes to give the dish some added color contrast. They naturally paired well with the mushroom sauce. The mango ginger relish, splashed with some Riesling topped off the dish very nicely. Ultimately, the shark was very meaty, much like halibut but no where near as tasty.
No wonder it was only $6/lb.
I was satisfied with my composed meal (as I just had it for lunch today!), but I’d play around with it a bit more next time. I’m thinking that instead of mango, I could use buttery carrots. But I’m from the caribbean and this girl here loves her some mango! But that’s another story for another day.
Of note, shark has been listed on the EDF’s health advisory list due it’s high level of mercury. I loved this, but I wouldn’t run to the market to buy it if I were on a fish diet. There are many more sustainable options which are easily accessible, but I did want to try shark. At least once!