Gabe the Fish Babe: What a Fluke
By: Gabrielle Stommel, May 11, 2012
Gabe the Fish Babe - An inspired seafood blogger and a young fishmonger of fresh, day-boat New England species, this modern-day mermaid comes from a long line of seafaring Cape Codders. In this column, Gabe encourages readers to expand their minds and mouths to local, abundant, underutilized seafood - and hopes to bring awareness to a creature on the brink of extinction: the American commercial fisherman.
When my seafood company buys fluke we examine it to make sure that our fishermen bleed the fish as soon as it is caught. How can you tell if a fluke is bled? Start by looking at its belly. The belly of a prime, sushi-quality fluke should be bright white with little to no blood spots.
Flukes are bled through their gills in order to minimize damage to its expensive, highly valued flesh.
A fisher who knows what he or she is doing will usually brain-kill the fish before bleeding it. Brain-killing a fish is the most humane way to treat an animal destined for human consumption. By brain-killing a fish you cause very little stress to the animal during its death, which in turn enhances the meat quality. Stress at the time of death produces lactic acid in the animal’s muscles and flesh, which speeds up the process of decay.
Bled fluke should be “slurried” in a brine of seawater and ice. Brine is an excellent way to store fluke either on or off a fishing vessel because the salt water relieves the pressure that crushed ice can inflict on the meat in storage and the salt water allows the fish to bleed out quickly.
A bled and slurried fluke has a high commercial value because with a clean, bloodless fillet it is considered a “sushi quality” piece of fish. A fluke crudo or ceviche is a popular way to utilize a sushi-grade fluke.
Chef Jeremy Sewall of Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston uses my sushi grade fluke in his citrusy, refreshing ceviche that's a staple on his spring and summer menu. Chef David Vacca of The Bridge Restaurant in Westerly, RI makes a delicate crudo with our fluke, dressing thinly sliced pieces of the fish in olive oil and topping them off with slices of Meyer lemon and herbs. Just the thought of it makes me ravenous!
Just this week I shipped local New England fluke across the country to top chefs in New York City, Chicago, Buffalo, New York and even Los Gatos, California. The fact that I can tell them exactly which boat harvested their fish adds extra value to their customers. Many of these chefs label the fluke on their menu with the boat, captain name, harvest location and fishing gear used. Just another example of how forward-thinking foodies love to know where their fish comes from.
Flukes can get massive, making them a popular fish when it comes to size-related fishing contests. The world record for a fluke catch was set by a woman named Monica Oswald of Bradley Beach, NJ, weighing in at 24.3 lbs. That’s a dang monstrosity!