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September 24, 2006

A Perfect Day for Sablefish

The other day, I was at the supermarket, and stopped by the fish counter to see if there was anything new and interesting. There was: a large sign proclaimed "Catch of the Day! Locally caught black cod!". Said black cod was actually labelled "butterfish" inside the fish case. And the fish is really most properly called "sablefish", since there are other fish called butterfish, and it isn't a cod. Whatever you call it, I bought some and brought it home.

I'd never cooked sablefish before, but I have eaten it, most memorably in Nobu's famous miso-marinated "black cod". While that is a really delicious preparation, it calls for marinating the fish for three days before cooking, which was more elaborate than I was going for. So, I pulled out Mark Bittman's Fish cookbook, and consulted it for advice.

I considered poaching the fish, but decided to go really simple and just broil it. Upon inspection, the filets proved to have pin bones, which I was unable to remove with a pair of tweezers. I gave up, and decided we could just pick them out.

I seasoned the fish with salt and pepper, broiled it six inches from the heat for about 7 minutes without turning it over, and squeezed a bit of lemon on it before serving it with sauteed swiss chard and whole wheat couscous with roasted red peppers.

Bittman says that if sablefish were more readily available, we'd eat it all the time. I have to agree. The fish was moist, delicate, and decidedly buttery in flavor. (I'd used no oil or butter in the preparation.) This despite the fact that I think I actually may have overcooked it slightly. The pin bones proved to be easy to pick out of the cooked fish, so they weren't a problem either.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program gives California-caught sablefish only their "Good" rating, rather than their "Best" rating, because the California fishery is not as well-managed as the Alaskan fishery. Alaskan sablefish gets a "Best" rating. So, while I can feel ecologically pretty good about my purchase, my slight smugness at being able to buy locally caught was somewhat misplaced in this case.

So, if you see black cod/butterfish/sablefish at your local fish counter, check it out!

Posted by spaceling at September 24, 2006 11:50 AM

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