Monday, May 5, 2008

Fun Playing with Fresh Fish at Retail

I have long bemoaned the lack of truly fresh fish available at retail in Northeast Ohio. Yes, you can get exquisite sushi, scallops and other water-dwellers at many of our better restaurants in the Cleveland Area (such as Restaurant Dante, which I just blogged about here). But to me, cooking is an essential part of playing with food. And I long to try the many recipes I have for fresh crab, shrimp, scallops and finfish. I have rarely been happy with any fish I've purchased at retail in the almost 13 years I have lived here (with the exception of the fabulous gefilte fish mixture procured by Mister Brisket around the Jewish holidays). And I was really, really craving fresh fish after last Thursday's Sushi Blues at Dante.

So - I made my second journey to the newest local fish store: BayLobsters Fish Market, located at 9408 Ravenna Rd. (Rt. 82), Twinsburg, OH 44087. This is a family business owned by John & Cindy Dziorney, who also work in the store. Their daughter, whose name I did not get, really knows her fish (she was expertly shelling a cooked lobster for a customer when I came in), and was running the retail counter both times I visited.

The first time I visited, about 2 weeks ago, I got the most extraordinary piece of fresh halibut, which I did not get a photo of. Last Saturday, however, I felt like such a kid in a candy shop that I had to capture some swimming moments!

First dilemma - how to choose? Live soft shell crabs, live crawfish or whole fish (pompano, I think)? I decided to try the soft shells, which I've enjoyed eating, but never cooked.

Next - which fin fish? The salmon had just arrived, and it was pristine - I didn't open it until Sunday, and there wasn't a hint of fishy or even strong salmon smell. I asked for a pound. Since it was a little short, I decided to supplement it with some Mahi steak. But the Blue Marlin steaks just looked so good - I realized that the salmon would keep until Sunday, and the Marlin went on the menu for Saturday.

Then, off to Heinen's. They had some lovely crisp green beans, as well as passably crisp snap and snow peas. We still had some lovely asparagus from the Blue Egg Farmer - so I was in business!

As dinner time approached, I realized that I had no idea how to clean the soft shell crabs - every recipe I found told me to start with "cleaned" crabs. I had thought that they were 100% edible, but thanks to this recipe on, I taught myself how to clean them. Since I had never cooked them, I was grateful to for providing some help in that department, also.

Aren't They Cute?

I made a flour-beer batter, dipped them in, then set them into some 350 degree oil in a cast iron skillet. Served with Asian dipping sauce - they were scrumptious!

Next up - the Blue Marlin steak. Don't ask why I cut it in half before cooking it.

The young lady who sold this to me noted that it was Sashimi grade - so a light sear in the cast iron would be in order. I used a recipe for Wasabi Dipping Sauce to accompany it:

I stir fried the peas and asparagus with lots of garlic and ginger:

Add a pot of Jasmine Rice, and we enjoyed a fresh fish and seafood feast!

But the fish fest wasn't over yet! For Sunday night's dinner, I used a recipe from Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking for a baked salmon marinated in soy, chili and bean paste, to which I added a Bahamian gold pepper, which is very similar to, though slightly less hot than a habenero.

I was too tired to take a lot of photos - but these two say it all, I think:

The only salmon I've ever had that was more pristine than this was at Carrie Cerino's, when Chef Dominic was having Copper River Kings overnighted to him off of the fisherman's boat! This more than made up for the lack of profundity in the Mahi - it did smell a bit and wasn't as good. But to hit homeruns on three out of four fish items in one trip - that is a batting average the Cleveland Indians would love to have!

And now, thanks to BayLobsters Fish Market, I can play with fresh fish or seafood any time I want!

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