Americans are pretty predictable when it comes to ordering fish for dinner. We like our salmon, tuna and tilapia just fine, thank you. But beyond those oh-so-common varieties, the average Joe tends to get a little skittish. Lately, though, there’s been a concerted effort among the nation’s best chefs to help make regular people comfortable with eating all kinds of aquatic life. Even the ones with funky names, like porgy, grunt and, worse, slimehead. The Wall Street Journal reports on the steady emergence of these so-called trash fish on menus across the country, as eco-conscious chefs strive to expand our collective comfort zone with regard to seafood. Michael Leviton of Lumière in Newton, Massachusetts, for one, is even planning to publish a trash-fish cookbook.
As a number of chefs and fishmongers point out, there are plenty of delicious fish in the sea that you have probably never heard of — many of which are just as good as the stuff you’re used to eating. And a lot of them are in far greater supply than the usual overfished fare, according to the Journal:
Waters in the Northeast are teeming with pollock, hake and dogfish, which match the flaky, mild profile of dwindling cod. Acadian redfish, once used for lobster bait off the coast of Maine, makes a superior alternative to tilapia, much of which is raised in antibiotic-spiked pools in China. The Chesapeake Bay is lousy with blue catfish, similar to the basa being imported by the ton from Vietnam. Firm, buttery and plentiful Pacific lingcod is a good understudy for pricey halibut.
Trouble is, many of these tasty species have been given some pretty unappetizing-sounding names. So a big part of the push for diversification is about rebranding. Not that this is anything particularly new. In fact, the seafood industry has a long history of renaming things to make them sound more appealing. Consider the Patagonian toothfish, which you may recognize as the sexier-sounding Chilean sea bass. An even better example would be the dubious “whore’s eggs” — which we now refer to as uni. With any luck, snakehead could become the new snapper. First, though, it will need a new identity. Anyone?
Read more about seafood on Food Republic: