Cooking with under-loved fish is a great way to support sustainability; this year, two of F&W's favorite chefs are working hard to help us change how we buy, eat and think about seafood.
Chef Michael Anthony of NYC's Gramercy Tavern and Untitled at the Whitney Museum is a deep believer in community-supported fishery Dock to Dish, a membership service that delivers locally caught fish to participants in Montauk, Key West and Los Angeles (it's also expanding to Boston in 2016). Anthony subscribes as an individual, and he also has subscriptions for both of his restaurants.
“Michael Anthony is a champion to us. We would not be here without him,” says Dock to Dish founder Sean Barrett. “His insane talents and abilities with locally sourced seasonal ingredients are only exceeded by his genuinely deep level of care and concern for the people who are out here seasonally sourcing them. Last season I was injured in an accident doing deliveries and had to have surgery to repair my shoulder, which meant we almost had to cancel this season. Michael helped me work through a strategy that literally saved the season for us: He suggested recruiting cooks from high-end kitchens to come help us with city deliveries on their days off, which worked like a charm.”
Meanwhile, Los Angeles chef Michael Cimarusti will debut his new market Cape Seafood & Provisions this fall, where he’ll champion oddball West Coast fish varieties and sell prepared foods like bouillabaisse broth and Hokkaido scallop dogs. He recently launched California’s first ever restaurant-supported fishery as a partnership with Dock to Dish, making wild, local fish deliveries available to participating restaurants, starting with his flagship, Providence, where endangered species like Bluefin tuna are banned from the menu. Sixteen Santa Barbara–area fishermen will contribute to the delivery service.
Here, the two chefs sound off about the sustainable seafood we should all be adding to our plates in 2016:
1. Butterfish. Michael Anthony loves these small, flaky white fish with rich, oily flesh. “It can be salted and grilled whole, or filleted and served in a light broth like the spicy mushroom consommé or the curry of summer squash we use at Untitled,” he says. “Small fish like butterfish are low on the food chain and very sustainable. They’re flavorful and fresh but don't show up on every restaurant's menu.”
2. Vermilion snapper. “The vermilion snapper has a firm texture and a brilliant red skin with patches of yellow and black,” says Michael Cimarusti. “Its mild flavor reflects its diet of small crustaceans, squid, small fish and fish eggs: The fish is sweet, with flesh that’s reminiscent of shellfish. They stand up well to grilling or use in fish stew.”
3. Bluefish. “A summer specialty in the Northeast,” says Anthony. “The slightly fatty content lends itself well to smoking and grilling. Use this fish right out of the water to show off its best qualities. What better way to cook a distinctive meal from this region?”
4. Thornyhead. “These are small rockfish whose range extends from Alaska to Baja,” says Cimarusti, “and they live for between 80 and 100 years. They are small, sweet, nutty, tender and delicious. We fillet them, leaving the head on with the tail attached, dredge them in our fish fry mix of flour, corn flour and spices, carefully place them in the fryer and then cook them to a golden brown.”
5. Sea Robin. “There isn't a big market for this firm and sweet bycatch, so it is a great sustainable choice,” says Anthony. “The fillet is rather small, so I like to bulk up on the rest of the dish: I make a big summer salad with tomatoes and zucchini, and grill these delicate fillets and perch them up on top to show them off.”
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