Rosebud Snapper, a bycatch fish, at Oxheart (Credit: Courtesy Oxheart)
10:00 AM / September 11, 2012
/ Posted by Andrew Knowlton
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The last time I went down to Houston, I noticed something interesting going on at the city’s best restaurants–instead of the standard parade of snapper and grouper flopping around on their seafood menus, they all had something called “bycatch.”
According to Bryan Caswell, the chef at the seafood-centric Reef, bycatch is “a byproduct, caught on the way for another, larger, commercial fish.” It also goes by the uglier name of “trash fish,” which tells you how the industry has treated this stuff in the past. But what local vegetables and nose-to-tail eating are to produce and meat, bycatch is to seafood: caught in smaller quantities, more interesting than your average catch, and actually better for the fishermen and the health of the fisheries.
The main commercial fish in the Gulf are snapper, grouper, and codfish, but there are thousands of other species swimming in the same water, and a lot of them end up on the same lines and in the same nets as the big species. These aren’t all weird little oily things either; a lot are fish that people happily eat in different parts of the world, or even other parts of America, like pink sea bream, longtail sea bass, almaco jack, and blackfin tuna.
When I spoke with Chris Shepherd at Underbelly, he had a scorpion fish on the menu. “It’s kind of funky, with all these spikes and spines, but it softens up when you fry it,” he said. “Customers love it.”
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Justin Yu, at Oxheart (one of our Best New Restaurants in America), has been using bycatch since he opened the restaurant. For a recent menu, he served cured and smoked sand trout with sweet potato greens, smoked pine nut puree, and a sofrito made with dried bycatch shrimp.
It’s hard to believe, but just five years back, Houston was a boring fish town. There wasn’t a market for anything besides the most popular species, so fishermen would either give the bycatch to their crew or toss the unwanted fish back in the ocean.
Caswell, who grew up fishing on the Gulf, says that most of the fish he’s seen tossed back end up dead. “Maybe twenty-five, thirty percent of those fish make it. Once a school of dolphins figures out what’s going on, it’s like a chow line, they just hang out and eat.”
When Caswell initially tried to make a market for these so-called “trash” fish, the industry was so dominated by the traditional commercial fish that he couldn’t even buy the bycatch if he wanted to. Then he met a man named PJ Stoops.
Read More http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandforums/blogs/bafoodist/2012/09/bycatch-of-the-day.html#ixzz26DhAXIWU
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