My favourite fish depends on how I feel on the day
The other day my brother-in-law asked me what my favourite fish was. Well, it depends.
Sometimes I long for comfort food like my Mum used to cook. We had small fried flounders where we’d eat the skin and the delicate white flesh avoiding the bony bits on the edges, then carefully slide a knife and fork under the flounder and turn it without breaking it. Then we’d ease the frame off the flesh and have a clear run without bones.
For a bit more sophistication, perhaps an entree for a dinner, sole fillets are versatile and marvellous. The texture and flavour of fresh sole fillets are out there by themselves. You can add subtle flavours from minced prawn, chopped chives, nothing too strong.
Then for the flat-fish-finale, I’d choose brill or turbot? These large right-eyed flounders have an average weight of 2 kg. Yes, they’re big. Too big for a frying pan so they come as fillets. Large, apricot-coloured fillets that cook white and are slightly courser textured than sole fillets, but with a beautiful texture and flavour.
Mussels are an all-time favourite of mine.
Monkfish is known in Spain as “poor-man’s lobster”. I’m not sure I totally agree, but the tails have a shape like a lobster tail, a texture that’s firm and a delightful flavour . They need to be South Island monkfish, the blood-red Auckland ones aren’t nearly so good.
I once caught a 38 kg hapuku in 300 metres of water. I didn’t so much fillet it as butcher it. I took the sides off it, trimmed the pin bones out and sliced cutlets diagonally from the fillets. I then fried them with panko crumbs and a little sea salt. The flavour is slightly fresh seabreeze, with a little crab flavour and sweetness. Hapuku cutlets are much more robust than sole fillets and a little more forgiving of inattention on the stove-top.
So, no snapper or blue cod. Tarakihi and gurnard didn’t get a mention either. Yes, they’re great, but then Ross, my brother-in-law asked me about my favourite fish, not the fish I catch the most frequently from the tin boat. Just like wine, there’s a great variety of fish and they have their moments.