Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Fish Tale

Sesame Encrusted Turbot Filet with Ponzu Vinaigrette

Turbot (I've been told correctly pronounced "ter-bought") is our new favorite fish. Many years ago, I was lucky enough to do some fishing around Shelter Island off Juneau, Alaska and when we weren't trolling for king salmon, we would bottom fish. Bottom fishing involves maneuvering the boat up current of deep, underwater cliffs, cutting the motors and drifting. When in position, we cut leathery halibut skin into strips and fastened them securely to massive hooks, then with the aid of a ten pound cannon ball weight, the bait was thrown over the side to plummet down several hundred feet until hitting the bottom. Once there, we bounced the bait on the ocean floor in hopes of hitting a halibut on the head. Apparently, bottom feeding fish like halibut and turbot like to congregate at the base of these cliffs because this is where much of their food collects. When anything falls off the edge of the cliff and hits them on the head, they pounce on it and devour it. More often than not, we would pull up rock cod, or as we called them, "double uglies" because of the effect decompression had on them being brought to the surface so quickly. Once in a while, someone would celebrate the landing of a giant, hundred pound halibut. We pulled up way more turbot though. Turbot look like streamlined halibut; similar markings, same flat shape but not quite as proportionally wide. Flaky, rich and fatty turbot flesh is just as tasty as halibut and I think if someone told you it was indeed halibut, it would be hard to tell otherwise. The only difference between the two fish in my mind is the popularity and more importantly, the price. You can find wild caught turbot for about one half to two thirds the price of halibut. Notice you don't see it on menus much yet? With a little luck the turbot won't end up like the Patagonian tooth fish a.k.a. Chilean seabass; overpriced, over-fished and overrated.

For dinner last night, we had sesame encrusted turbot filet with a ponzu sauce, wild rice and wokked veggies. Give turbot a try.

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