We hear a great deal about sustainable farming, fishing, and general food production. A lofty goal that is generally misunderstood and often lumped with other terms like organic, local, natural, fair trade, etc. I have attended many conferences, read all the books, and listened to the purveyors of sustainability, but still see more fog than clarity on the subject. A myriad of logos and statements from marketing associations, independent producers, and even country designations only add to the confusion. Alaska, however, is a unique fishery. Long before sustainability became cool, the state committed to managing their natural resources, especially the salmon, halibut, crab, and pollock fisheries. Scientifically managing yearly catch, and partnering with the fishing industry has allowed them to build an industry that will be fishing for many, many years.
I recently attended a symposium on sustainability sponsored by the Alaskan Seafood Marketing Institute. In attendance were over 100 importers, retailers, restauranteurs, and a few chefs. A powerhouse of presenters, the day started with a live feed from Rome with the Director of Fish Products and Industry Division of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The FAO is the UN division that has applied a “code of conduct for responsible fisheries”, guiding the global community to develop sustainable fishing practices.
After a full day of presentations, we were able to get out into the waters off of Anchorage and see the source of such great fish firsthand. While steaming out to a glacier, I overheard the seafood buyer of a major restaurant chain wax on about the restaurant's signature dish…a marinated Chilean Sea Bass. Chilean Sea Bass, also known as Patagonian Toothfish, is a large fish found in deep waters in the Southern Hemisphere that for the last 15 years has been the darling of many menus. Impossible to overcook, meaty and mild, this has been a dream fish for many, but now overfished and nearly depleted. We have a long way to go as an industry.
Instead of Chilean Sea Bass, I prefer to use Alaskan Halibut, Black Cod (aka Sablefish), Line Caught Cod or similar mild white fish species. The best fish is the simplest in my opinion. Here are two of my favorites:
Halibut with with parsley, capers, and brown butter for 4
4 each 6oz (about 190gm) Halibut Fillet, about 1 ½ inches thick
Light olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 Tbl unsalted whole butter
1 each lemon
2 Tbl Flat leaf parsley leaves
2 tbl capers, drained
1. Pat fillets dry, season with salt and freshly ground pepper
2. Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat, add enough light olive oil to just coat the pan.
3. Sauté the halibut fillets for approximately 3 minutes on each side.
4. Gently remove the fillets, add the whole butter back to the pan. Let the butter foam up and lightly brown, then squeeze the lemon into the browned butter, swirl the pan, add the parsley leaves and capers in one go.
5. Place the fish onto serving plates and divide the browned butter over the fillets and serve.
Miso glazed Line Caught Cod
4 each 6oz (about 190gm) Line Caught Cod, about 1 ½ inches thick
4 Tbl White Miso paste
¼ cup Clam juice or Chicken Stock
2 Tbl light soy sauce
1 tsp light brown sugar
2 tsp white and black sesame seeds
1 tsp thinly sliced scallions
1 Tbl unsalted butter
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1. Mix the Miso paste with the calm juice or chicken stock. Reserve half for later use, then finish the marinade by adding the soy and brown sugar to the other half.
2. Pour the marinade over the fish fillets and let marinate for 3-6 hours.
3. Remove and pat the fillets dry.
4. Spread the sesame seeds out onto a plate, dredge the fillets top side only into the sesame, pressing in slightly to make sure they stick.
5. Heat a not stick pan over medium high heat with the canola oil. When hot, sauté the fillets sesame side first for about 4 minutes on each side.
6. Remove to a warm platter.
7. Wipe the same pan of any excess seeds, then pour the remaining miso into the pan. As soon as the miso boils, add the butter and rice vinegar, swirling to melt the butter and thicken the sauce
8. Add the sliced scallions, divide the miso sauce over the fish and serve.
What's on YOUR plate today?