Skate, Capers, And Bread

If your skate wings are small serve one each, half each if largish, and cut into four pieces if large. The main thing is to make sure your fishmonger skins your wings on both sides. The white bread hear does not refer to slices of stodgy, soulless, packaged bread, but a loaf with a distinguished crumb and splendid crust. You need a spirited salad to follow.

What a crazy week! Work has picked up, my mother and puppy had birthdays, and I’ve started playing tennis again. I’m still cooking though, I’ve just not had time to post. But this dish was so good, that I’m making time tonight.

This is another time where I wish I could thank Mr. Henderson personally for including such a wonderful recipe in his book. I’ve never had skate before, so when I decided that it was now my favorite fish after the first bite, I was reminded that I needed to keep my mind open when it comes to trying new things.

Skates are bottom-dwelling, cartilaginous fish found throughout the world, and sadly the common skate and white skate are assessed as Critically Endangered by IUCN (World Conservation Union) and the fish is listed by the Marine Conservation Society as a “fish to avoid”. I’ll do my part and only buy skate only one more time to finish all the recipes in the book. If you do end up buying skate, remember to use it the same day. Skate is extremely perishable so don’t delay!

After setting the oven to 425°F, I splashed a little oil and dropped a knob of butter into an oven proof pan and placed it over a hot burner. Once the pan began to sizzle, I carefully laid the skate wings in and gave it a quick “shuggle” to keep the skate from sticking to the pan.  I figured that I’d have the only use of “shuggle” on the internet, but apparently the term has various slang meanings.  What Mr. Henderson is asking for is a quick shake of the pan.  “Shuggle” is more fun to say though.  Shuggle.

Minutes later I flipped the skate over and gave the pan another little “shuggle”. For those that have never flipped skate before, it’s really, really tough. As you can see in the picture, the wing was already starting to segment and fall apart. The wing that isn’t in the shot didn’t flip as cleanly, but it still came out just as delicious. The pan was placed into the oven shortly thereafter.

In the meantime, I prepped the capers, parsley, lemon and bread I needed to finish the recipe. I made sure to pick a bread with a respectable crumb.

When the skate was finished cooking, I removed the wings and set them aside. The pan was returned to the burner and a whole stick of butter was melted. The second it started bubbling, I added my cubed bread. The bread was supposed to get a little color and crispy, but still be giving on the inside. The lemon juice was stirred in and sizzled until it turned brown and then the capers were added. Seconds before serving the dish, I sprinkled the parsley into the pan and then poured it over the skate.

Here’s the final dish. I can’t begin to tell you how sad I am that skate is on the “Critically Endangered” list. Skate is a wonderfully tender, flaky, flavorful fish, and adding capers, buttery croutons and a brown butter sauce just elevates it to a whole other level. I can see why they’ve been fished so heavily, but I’ll be staying away for now. Hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy it carefree in the near future.

One down, one hundred and one to go.

Shuggle.

Mussels Grilled On A Barbecue

Ideally you are on a Hebridean island, eating mussels you have picked and cooked on driftwood. If this cannot be, the barbecue in the backyard will suffice very well.

P.S. This works just as well for large clams or razor clams.

Hopefully, everyone–in America, at least–had a great weekend with lots of outdoor grilling, cold beer and fireworks. My wife and I managed to hit the trifecta on the Fourth, our first time in a good many years.

The next evening, right before I headed to the market to pick the mussels, we had a pleasant surprise in the fact that our Texas Everbearing Fig Tree decided to finally gift us with scads of ripened fruit.

While we picked the figs off the tree, I kept thinking about an update over on Hank Shaw’s blog that mentioned wrapping ripe figs in prosciutto and then grilling them. I mentally added prosciutto to my shopping list.

Upon returning home, I sliced, wrapped, and scattered the little bites over a heating up grill before I began inspecting and cleaning my mussels

Now, I don’t know if it was the excitement from doing my first seafood recipe of the book, or hunger pushing me to quickly get food on the table so we could eat, but I totally forgot to take any pictures of the mussels in their raw form. This is a very simple recipe though, so good mussel pictures will be along shortly. I did make sure to discard any open mussels that refused to close, as they quickly become toxic after they die. No food poisoning for me, thank you.

Mr. Henderson asks us to make a simple dressing to toss with the mussels once they’ve cooked. Lemon juice, garlic, young thyme, olive oil and a bit of seasoning. A quick whisking and I ran outside to pull the fig-prosciutto bites off the grill.

They turned out beautifully if you don’t mind me saying so–salty, meaty, sweet little tidbits. Next time I’ll be trying the figs with blue cheese, but wrapping them in cured meat is no terrible thing, I promise.

Finally, the mussels! Mr. Henderson mentions that using a wooden fire is highly preferred, but unfortunately I only have a gas grill. I’ll be making this again at my parents at some point, as they do have a proper barbecue pit. The mussels were spread over the grates and I waited for them to open up.

I ran inside and quickly pulled the leaves off of a bunch of celery, and chopped two big handfuls of parsley. Back outside, as the mussels slowly opened up I pulled them off the grill, and then tossed them with the dressing, celery leaves and parsley.

Here’s the final dish with a bit of bread for sopping up the mussel liquor and dressing, and a nice cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The dressing and greens perfectly complimented the briny, slightly sweet flavor of the mussels. The celery leaves in particular reminded me of Bay Seasoning.

My wife and I ended up almost polishing off a total of four pounds of mussels that evening, they were so good. If you’re looking to start summer off with a simple yet delicious grill recipe, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one than this.

One down, one hundred and six to go.