Shark-eating man is the aim of the fishing days. And ratfish-eating woman and sculpin-eating child. In fact, if the industry has it's way, the wealth that now concentrates on the likes of sole, salmon, trout and the other few popular (and expensive) fish will be spread to hundreds of fish species.
So shark is showing up in supermarkets and a Catch America information program promoted by the seafood industry and the U.S. Department of Commerce is steeping the public in the merits of fish, especially little-known fish that the public is inclined to shun. One of its first tasks is developing edibility profiles to rate fish on flakiness, color of meat, moistness, flavor, fat content and such characteristics that will allow the consumer to compare an unfamiliar fish with traditional favorites -- to find, for instance, that cusk is similar to haddock.
In Washington, the program was launched publicly with a sampling of underutilized species presented to "the mayor (who didn't show up) and a galaxy of Washington celebrities" in the midst of a downpour on September 18. Despite the rain, the guests crowded under leaky awnings to taste fried croaker with mustard sauce (a big hit, especially to lovers of fried catfish), squid salad, bluefish salad and baked shark, prepared by chefs Dominique d'Ermo of Dominique's and Mark Caraluzzi of the American Cafe'. Next on the agenda is a season of cooking demonstrations around the city to verify that man can bite back when it comes to shark -- and monkfish and ratfish.
While Catch America builds its campaign, Washington seems to already have caught on. La Chaumiere restaurant reports that even now shark is the best-selling item on its menu. Serving it with a raspberry-vinegar white butter sauce no doubt enhances its fashionability. And La Chaumiere's owner, Gerard Pain, points out that shark not only resembles swordfish -- which has long been popular -- but that dark-skinned, cheaper shark bears an even closer resemblance to that expensive fish than does light-skinned shark.
Another triumph for the "give it a French name" marketing technique.
LA CHAUMIERE'S ESCALOPE OF SHARK WITH RASPBERRY BUTTER SAUCE (6 servings) Salt and pepper to taste 12 shark fillets, 3 to 4 ounces each and 3/8-inch thick (preferably thrasher shark) Clarified butter for saute'eing
Sauce: 1 pound unsalted butter, softened, plus extra butter for saute'eing shallots 1 tablespoon chopped shallots 10 tablespoons raspberry vinegar Dash white pepper, freshly ground Cayenne pepper and salt to taste 1 or 2 drops pure raspberry extract (optional)
Salt and pepper both sides of the shark fillets. Melt clarified butter in pan and saute' fillets on each side, just until cooked through without changing the white color of the shark. Drain on paper towels.
To prepare the sauce, heat butter and saute' the chopped shallots for 1 minute. Add raspberry vinegar and white pepper. Boil until reduced to one-third. Cut butter into small pieces and beat it into the vinegar piece by piece over low heat, beating each piece in thoroughly before adding the next and taking pan from heat occasionally so the pan does not get too hot. Butter should turn creamy but not melt in the sauce. Add cayenne pepper and salt to taste. If desired, add raspberry extract to bring out the raspberry flavor. Serve over shark fillets.
DOMINIQUE'S BAKED SHARK (4 servings) 2 pounds fresh shark or other firm-fleshed fish, cut in 1 1/2-inch cubes 10 sprigs fresh parsley, coarsely chopped 10 sprigs fresh watercress, coarsely chopped Juice of 1 lemon 6 tablespoons butter 2 large ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced 1 cup dry white wine 1 dozen large mushrooms, thinly sliced 1 large onion, finely chopped 1/4 cup chopped parsley 1 clove garlic, chopped Salt and and pepper 3 tablespoons butter 1/3 cup bread crumbs
Place parsley and watercress in a well-buttered baking pan. Arrange fish cubes on top of herbs. Sprinkle with lemon juice and dot with butter. Place tomatoes over top of fish. Add wine, mushrooms, onion, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake in a hot oven, 425 degrees, for 20 minutes, or until fish flakes easily. Place on warm serving platter. If desired, just before serving, melt butter in frying pan. When it sizzles, add bread crumbs and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle over baked shark.
FRIED CROAKER WITH MUSTARD SAUCE (4 servings) 4 12- to 14-ounce pan-dressed croaker or other pan-dressed fish Salt and pepper 1/3 cup flour 3 tablespoons butter 4 tablespoons olive oil Parsley for garnish
Mustard Sauce: 1 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or fresh parsley 1 cup light cream or milk 3 tablespoons dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme Dash nutmeg
Rinse and dry fish. Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and pepper. Coat fish with flour and shake off excess. Heat butter and olive oil together in a large skillet at moderate heat. When butter and oil begin to sizzle, add fish and cook each side about 5 minutes or until golden brown and fish flakes easily. Remove fish to a warm platter.
To prepare mustard sauce, pour off all but a thin layer of grease from the pan used to fry the fish. Add the vermouth or white wine and bring to a slow boil. Boil 3 minutes, then remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Continue cooking until sauce is reduced to about 1 1/3 cups. Pour over fish. Sprinkle with parsley.