Making fish is easy & Finnan "pollie"
Over the next few weeks, we are going to be sharing some tips, tricks, and recipes for preparing seafood from Maine fishermen and fishing families. To get us started, I have a few things for you to keep in mind that I'd like to share with you, and a recipe that I'm attempting for the first time that will help encourage you to start making more seafood at home. (Did you know that I'm part of a fishing family?)
So, without further ado, here are 10 things that you can fathom about making seafood at home:
Making seafood at home is fun, good for you, and probably a lot easier than you think.
Buying Maine fish from local Maine businesses and Maine fishermen almost guarantees that whatever you make will be delicious. Why? Because Maine seafood is delicious.
Ask whomever you are purchasing the seafood from for help. Ask them things like, are there bones and if so can you help me remove them; how do you cook your lobster; what's the easiest or best way to prepare this?
You can buy fish in "bulk" and store it to have for a long time. Stored properly, seafood can last a long time, and even better, most fish can be cooked from frozen.
Cooking fish is wicked fast, bub. It's also quick to marinade. Find a few different recipes before you buy so that you can know what you need for ingredients and how to prep the fish.
The right tools help. Sharp knives and a good fish spatula are not necessary but they do make things easier to fillet and flip.
It always helps to dry off your fish, lobster meat, scallops, or whatever. Sometimes after you defrost fish or purchase it, it can be a little wet, which will water down your recipe. Grab a few paper towels and dry it off.
You do not have to immediately remove the skin. Either prep it properly so that you can eat it, or after you cook the fish it will be easier to remove.
Fat is seafood's bestie. Use butter, oil, or mayo to coat fish and cook it, and it will be fin-tastic.
Try whole fish! (That's a post for another time.)
Here's my little story about making a new-to-me recipe that might give you just the bit of confidence that you need to tackle your own new fish recipe.
Last night I spoke with a fisherman with whom we work very closely named Randy Cushman. Randy fishes for groundfish, often targeting American plaice and is the proud owner of a beautiful wooden boat, F/V Ella Christine. He's a fourth-generation fisherman and a Maine Coast Fishermen's Association board member. I asked Randy what his favorite way to prepare fish was and we got talking about a bunch of different seafood recipes. He mentioned that one time he and his wife made Finnan haddie but used pollock. Finnan haddie is a smoked haddock dish traditionally from Scotland but popular with many fishing families in Maine. I've made versions of smoked haddock dishes before but thought I'd give the pollock version a shot; I have lots of pollock in my freezer from Gulf of Maine Sashimi.
I started out by reading a number of versions of Finnan haddie recipes and making some notes. After defrosting the pollock I put it on the smoker at 250° for just about one-and-a-half hours. Then I took the pollock off the smoker and let it cool. While the fish was smoking and then cooling I soaked a handful of plain cashews in water because I don't eat a lot of dairy. Pureed cashews make a great cream substitute. (So keep in mind, you can always find Finnan haddie recipes full of butter and cream but below is what I did.)
Milk (I used plain, unsweetened almond milk. Just enough to cover the fish.)
2 Cloves of Garlic
Onion (I used a half a shallot.)
Thyme (Just a sprig or a pinch.)
Heavy Cream (I used pureed cashews with olive oil to thicken instead of heavy cream.)
Salt and Pepper
Smoked Pollock (I used about a pound but I prefer more fish than all the other ingredients. You can use about 2/3 to 1 lbs for this recipe.)
Warm up the smoked fish, potato, onion, thyme, and garlic in (almond) milk in a saucepan on low heat for about 30-60 minutes or until soft. You are going to discard the milk so use just enough to cover the ingredients. Once warmed, pour the mixture through a sieve. (If you use thyme sprigs remove them and discard the milk.)
Using a fork, gently mash the pollock, potato, onions, and garlic together, adding enough cream (or cashews!) to make a thick paste-like mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
You can serve the mixture on toast or crackers. I will be eating this for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. I'll serve it on toast, with eggs, alongside avocadoes, or in a dish with some crackers on the side. If you make it, and I hope you do, please let me know how it goes! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tag us on social media @mainecoastfishermen.
Here are the recipes I looked at the to come up with one that worked for me:
Finnan haddie Canapes (Martha Stewart)