Call it "Jaws" to jowls, humans in the Washington area can now take their revenge on The Great White. No harpoon heroics, mind you. But shark is appearing on more and more dinner plates these days. And thanks to the helpful people at the Florida Department of Natural Resources, who publish such recipes as shark rarebit and oriental shark steaks, taking a finned menace to dinner might just become the fashionable thing to do this summer.
But The Great White is not the only fish to fry; there are many other candidates in the shark family--bull, bonehead, sharpnose, spiny dogfish, smooth dogfish, sand tiger, hammerhead, lemon, sand, dusky and nurse, to name a few. And, as far as edibility is concerned, there is the top of the line--mako.
As shark becomes less of a novelty, steaks and fillets are showing up with increasing frequency in fish counters. Locally, for example, the Chevy Chase Seafood Market has mako at $5.49 a pound, and Custis & Brown on the Maine Avenue wharf has sand shark at $1 per pound.
"I generally get shark on weekends only, but it's definitely become more popular," said O. Williams, owner of the Chevy Chase Seafood Market. "It's reasonably priced compared to swordfish and halibut. If I get 40 to 50 pounds on a weekend, I generally don't have a problem selling it."
Williams estimates that 70 percent of the shoppers who buy shark meat from him are first-time purchasers. "It's new here, and most people buy a few pieces when they buy swordfish," Williams said. "This time of year is a good time for barbecuing shark."
Williams suggests spreading mayonnaise over the shark steak before cooking it on the grill. "This keeps it from sticking, and it will not change the flavor," he said. Steaks should be grilled on both sides for a total cooking time of 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
Shark meat offers a number of advantages for fish lovers: It's firm and free of bones. It is economical, easy to prepare and pleasant tasting. It is so pleasant, in fact, that some south Florida residents claim that certain restaurants are substituting shark for scallops by paring down The Great White to scallop size with a simple cookie cutter.
Shark charlatans aside, I took the dive on a recent trip to Fort Lauderdale. At Susan's Las Olas Seafood Shop, lemon shark cost $3.79 a pound. Lisa Saiia, the owner's sister, suggested using it as an an appetizer.
By marinating the shark meat in any proportion of vermouth, lemon juice and salt and pepper for any time from 10 minutes or longer, it takes away a slightly bitter aftertaste, she explained.
"Like everything else, you have to educate the customer," Saiia said. "People don't think of eating a shark. They usually think of 'Jaws.' "
Thus educated, I ventured over to a friend's house, where we put the half pound of Jaws III into a sandwich-size plastic bag to marinate, while we sat down to meditate with drinks.
After 10 minutes we flipped over the bag and a little later we drained off the marinade, put it on a plate with butter and lemon juice and shoved it under the broiler. A few minutes on each side, a trim of the skin and--please pardon the expression--we were ready to sink our teeth into a delicious piece of fish.
Here are a couple of catches from the folks in Florida. ORIENTAL SHARK STEAKS (6 servings) 2 pounds shark steaks 1/4 cup orange juice 1/4 soy sauce 2 tablespoons ketchup 2 tablespoons cooking oil or melted butter 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon oregano 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1 clove garlic, minced
Place fish in single layer in a shallow dish. Combine remaining ingredients. Pour marinade over fish and let stand for 30 minutes in refrigerator, turning once. Remove fish, reserving marinade for basting. Place fish in a well-greased hinged wire grill or a well-greased broiler pan approximately 13-by-10 inches. Cook over hot coals or under broiler about 4 inches from source of heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and baste with marinade. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes more or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. From Seafood Adventures from the Gulf and South Atlantic," by Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation SHARK RAREBIT (6 servings) 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 1/2 cups milk 2 cups shredded sharp cheese, such as cheddar 2 cups shark, cooked and flaked 10-ounce package frozen peas, cooked and drained 3 tablespoons scallion, sliced 2 tablespoons pimiento (optional), chopped 6 patty shells, buttered toast points or english muffins
In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, salt, dry mustard and cayenne pepper. Add milk, stirring constantly until thick and smooth. Add cheese, stirring until cheese is melted. Fold in shark, peas, scallion and pimiento and continue cooking until heated through. Serve in patty shells, or on toast points or english muffins. graphics /photo: Shark