Offal of the Sea
I loooove, like really really love, seafood. After all, I was born and raised on an island in Southeast Asia. About 3 weeks back, PJ started the Louisiana Foods Total Catch to sell some of the less popular fish choice, which is very refreshing. Salmon and catfish have their place but I honestly find them quite overdone and boring. What about the almaco jack, the drum, and the blue runner? And while we’re at it, don’t forget the squid. Thankfully, PJ’s got them all.
But more intriguing than my experiment with new varieties of fish were my experimentations with parts of fish we tend to discard. Most of the fish we eat come as fillets while the rest of the fish gets discarded. Could there possibly be a use for the head, the bony underbelly, the guts?
Really, this isn’t that new a concept. Chinese have been known to consider dried fish maw (swim bladder) a delicacy. Cantonese people also regard the the bony underbelly as the tenderest and most delicate part of the fish too. How about trying to apply the nose to tail concept not just with our favorite livestock but with fish too?
And so we begin experimenting.
(Warning: some slightly stranger images might follow but I assure you, it’s all perfectly normal food.)
According to PJ, the bloodline of this fish is pretty delicious. True enough, they were. They’re just a little bony with a really thick outer coating. (They’re also known as hardtail jacks.) I’m not sure where the detest for bloodlines come from. I personally find it pretty delicious in most fish.
And of course, there were the guts. OK, I understand this might not everyone’s cup of tea. I reserved these from cleaning the fish and I decided to give these a quick sauté to taste. In fact, I had a friend try it out too. His verdict was it’s interesting but not delectable enough to eat it all. I just found them delicious, taste a little like liver but fishy but with a slight bitterness to them. They go great with some rice.
Why don’t I see more of this fish around? It’s freaking delicious and doesn’t taste very fishy. Unfortunately, the yield of these fish is fairly low (as in you don’t get a lot of flesh per weight of the whole fish.) While the filets are delicious, I thought that the tender rib meat is awesome too. Oh yeah, and the head of that fish is buried somewhere in my freezer but that is for another time.
These are smaller squid, probably about 2 – 4 inches in length. Squid was one of my favorite seafood growing up, usually steamed for a few minutes then dipped in sweet plum sauce. (I think I like the plum sauce more than the squid.) I don’t know why people don’t eat very much squid. It’s delicious and abundant. They’re also not that hard to clean. Here’s a good video showing how.
Most cookbooks recommend discarding four bits when cleaning squid – the inside bony frame, the hard beak, the segment behind the head, and the inside guts. I’m not like most cookbooks. Other than the hard frame and beak, the rest go into my “squid offal” pile.
The guts may sometimes be filled with sand, or even tiny fish (or whatever the squid last ate). Simply remove whatever large bits and rinse the sand off.
Then you sauté.
They kind of taste like a hybrid between squid and oysters at this point. I could eat them plain like that but then everything’s better with an egg right? Plus, for most, eating the unfamiliar sometimes requires some familiarity. Which brings me back to the opening picture of this post – I filled an omelet with all that squidy goodness.
So, what are your thoughts on ‘seafood offal’? Interesting or gross and disgusting? Do you have any other experiences with them? Do tell.