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grill ’s fish tasting Spring 2010


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fish TASTE

White fish – an introductory tasting There are more fishes in the sea, chef. Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

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nd the Auckland fish market is open every day with these fishes fresh off the boats – get up, get down, have a look. Then employ a fish broker to do it for you. We did; and this was on a bad day, following a week of high winds and shitty weather. But despite the horrendous prior conditions this is what we found. Sharks and rays, various mackerels, frost fish, leather jackets, stargazer/monkfish, moki, Warehou, pink mao mao, red cod, flounders and many others, plus the fish selected for the tasting that follows. THE TASTING The goal of this tasting was to examine the different textures and flavours of some of the fish available fresh on the day in the marketplace. Fish were sourced green at the early morning Auckland Fish Market. Fish were then mongered and samples were prepared for tasting in two ways: raw in the sashimi style (five samples); and, cooked simply – pan seared without skin (all). For comparison four samples were also cooked, skin on. Trevally Raw, skin off: Very light nose, fresh; texture semi firm but slightly chewy –

but good; flavour delicate and mouthfeel soft, sweet, and juicy, somewhat short on the palate. Cooked, skin off: Nose fresh; flesh is delicate, moist, firm then soft; a good flavour profile with a mussel note; mouthfeel soft. One taster said tastes of the ocean, one a short palate, and another, holds together really well. All round considered a very good fish. Kingfish Raw, skin off: Nose was sweet and fresh; texture medium firm and elastic, (one taster said stringy, another said pleasant rich and velvety); flavour somewhat strongish and metallic with a longish finish. Cooked, skin off: This example was considered not that special by most, very average; a couple found the bloodline overpowering; two said this fish needed big flavour companions. Grey mullet Raw, skin off: A fresh, oyster, stone nose; firm texture and nice bite; flavour full and slightly earthy, clean oily palate; mouthfeel, dense, nice and clean, but a slightly short finish. Cooked, skin off: Good strong earthy

grill magazine would very much like to thank: • The Auckland Fish Market (AFM) and staff for allowing us to photograph on the floor of the market, and most importantly for the fish. Seafood broker Jimmy Gerard of Jassid Fish Limited for choosing, collecting and preparing the samples and for coordinating the whole tasting. • Harbourside Seafood Bar and Grill for providing the venue and cooking the fish.

By John Clarke.

flavours, but a little short; a soft to firm texture that hold its structure very well; two commented this is a fish that could handle big flavours, olives. Kahawai Raw, skin off: Pinkish hue; nose sweet, clean and fresh; texture is slightly soft and flaked with gentle bite; flavour mild and sweet. Cooked, skin off: Nice nose with moist, slightly creamy texture; flavours reminiscent of trout, earthy and a long flavour. One taster found it dry and bloody. Ling Raw, skin off: Nose fresh; flesh was surprisingly fresh and delicate; texture firm but slightly stringy; mouthfeel chewy, but not overly. Cooked, skin off: For such an ugly and not overly popular fish this was a pleasant surprise to all. Clean nose; savoury, fresh and delicate long flavour with a sweet finish was the consensus; great textures, flaky, succulent, moist flesh. Highly recommended. Brill Cooked, skin off: Nice nose; flavour sweet,


fish TASTE

mild and delicate; creamy, soft texture but with bounce. Considered a good entry fish by the tasters. Ranked in the top three by all. Brilliant. Lemon sole Cooked, skin off: Good light interestingly fishy nose; most considered this fish delicious with a fine balance of soft and firm textures. Short protein strands, soft sweet and beautiful. Nice and “would be very versatile in the kitchen”, was a general comment. Blue cod Cooked, skin off: Not amazing. Sadly this fish did not meet with much approval. Custard textured – always a bad sign. When told this sample’s species those who knew this fish considered that this was not a fair/good example. Snapper As all tasters knew this fish well the snapper sample was used as the initial taster and a baseline that other samples could be measured against. Cooked, skin off: Nose fresh; texture firm and flaked well, cottony; flavour sweet and typical; mouthfeel a little dry. Cooked, skin on: A far better fish with the skin on, slightly tougher but far more depth of flavour and mouthfeel. Consensus: skin-on sample held flavour, moisture and fats better; consequently textures were far better. Scorpion fish (granddaddy groper) Cooked, skin off: Good nose; texture good and firm. Flavour comments were: boring, bland, watery, light, lacking depth, but one taster did find it flavoursome. Gurnard Cooked, skin off: Tasters commented on the lovely aroma, fresh and interesting; a nice typically gurnard texture, succulent, firm and bouncy; lovely flavours, sweet light with nice structure that holds well and considered by the panel very versatile. Recommended. Cooked, skin on: Even more so.

The tasted.

Tarakihi Cooked, skin off: Nose was okay, but texturally soft and watery, oily with not enough flavours. Comments were: fresh, lacked flavour, texture average, slightly stringy, poor structure with little cohesion. Possibly this fish was spent as most believed they had tasted better tarakihi. Porae Cooked, skin off: Nose was fresh and clean, seawater; texture excellent. Comments were: firm and slightly flaked; excellent complex subtle flavours, earth, meaty, oily and long; mouthfeel complex moist and good finish, beautiful oily fish. This sample was the find of the catch and considered far superior to its close relative the tarakihi. Wow – unanimously the best fish. Cooked, skin on: Was ever better. Elephant fish Cooked, skin off: Aroma fresh; texture firm, but flavour somewhat metallic, sweet and coppery with a character of overcooked cabbage; mouthfeel floury, watery but dry and grainy. Not nice. Rig Cooked, skin off: Some tasters thought this sample was not worth a comment, another said “fish and chips”. Nose fresh; mouthfeel dry and grainy, metallic and dry. Short protein strands. Piper Cooked, whole, gilled and gutted: Nose okay but lacked that distinctive piper character; elegant texture and delicate flavour; soft but firm creamy flesh, possibly a little rubbery. This is a fish that does not keep long and would have been even better if fresher. Sardine Cooked, whole, gilled and gutted: Nose is oily and strong but okay; flavour strong and oily – perfect for Mediterranean flavours. Brutish was one comment.

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THE PANEL The Waiheke contingent: • John Clarke – grill resource editor, ex fishing guide and chef. • Tony Moss – lately exec chef Stonyridge and about to open his own bistro/café on Waiheke Island. • Marco Edwards – exec chef Te Whau Vineyard Restaurant. The City contingent: Jimmy Gerard – Director, Harbourside Seafood Bar and Grill, chef and fish broker. • Lennox Bull – Head chef Prego. • Nathan Lord – Sous chef Prego. • Ross Birch – Head chef Cargo. And grill journalist and photographer, once again along for the ride.

A good fish broker – what, how, why, why not and who

• What Theoretically an experienced fish buyer who will buy fish for you or on your behalf and charge you a fee. A good broker will know the boats, their operators, their reputations and how the fish are caught and processed on board. • How You explain what you require. He/she will get up bloody early and check out what is in the market and procure fish at wholesale prices often at the fish auction. He/she buys (theoretically) what is best and at the best price. She/he will have the fish mongered to your specs and delivered to your kitchen door all before prep. • Why You will get the best at the best price; you will not have to get up at 4.30am, and you will have a relationship with a real person who you can kick up the ass if he/she doesn’t perform. • Why not Prices and species in the market can fluctuate. • Who Try Jimmy Gerard of Jassid Fish. He has been in the game for a long time and cooks the same fish in his own seafood restaurant, Harbourside. And no this is NOT an advert just a bloody good idea!

The tasters. www.grill.co.nz


Fish Taste: Grill Spring 2010