First of the Day
Harold holds up the first striper of the day, a little 16 pounder just barely over the 28-inch limit. Still a keeper!
Reeling it In
Stripers are super active swimmers who enjoy a good fight. They'll swim around the boat, which, when you've got four other rods and lines in the water, can get a little harrowing.
Not a Catch
This was my biggest catch of the day. And it started out already on the boat, dead.
Just messing with you. My single fish of the day. He wasn't too big, but damn if that forced perspective doesn't make him look like a giant. Times like these, I'm glad I studied photography.
Stripers don't have sharp teeth—they tend to swallow their small prey whole—which means you can pretty safely hold your hand in their mouth to take a look at their gills. It's the sharp fins you've got to look out for.
From right to left, Harold, my sister, another buddy of mine, and me. Each holding our catch. Notice that I'm the only sorry sucker who only caught half of his allowed daily catch.
It was a long morning—up since 4AM, heading back to the dock just after noon. Harold takes the wheel while the mate starts scaling fish.
Ideally, you'd use an actual scaling tool for this process, but the back of a knife will do, at least for the first pass.
Getting the Guts
The digestive tract and some of the other guts don't make good eating, so they get removed and returned to the sea from whence they came. It's fun to sort through the stomach to see what sort of little guys he's been feeding on. Usually it's a combination of little fish, crabs, and shrimp.
Back at the Office
We brought back one of the fish to the Serious Eats office to do some quick cooking with the ingredients we had on hand, no shopping. Harold starts by taking the sides off the fish before passing it to me to clean up the bellies and get rid of the pin bones using Niki's tweezers-that-definitely-weren't-designed-for-fish.
Filleting a fish is not the easiest task in the world, but stripers are big and have fairly distinct bones, making it easy to let the blade ride along.
Cleaned and Ready
One and a half sides of striper, cleaned, and ready to go. I think I had already taken the belly and part of the loin off one of these sides to get going on my sashimi.
There are few things I like more than ultra-fresh striped bass sashimi. It's one of the fish that I think does best straight out of the ocean, while it still has a very clean, lean flavor profile and a firm, almost crunchy texture. The belly in particular has great texture. We served it with a bit of soy and red vinegar, along with a re-purposed herb sauce from Taïm that I found in our fridge and combined with a bit of white miso and olive oil. I also used a few slivers of cornichon. That Taïm sauce can go on anything, though in retrospect I should have left a few more pieces plain to really appreciate their flavor.
Harold's First Course
Harold threw together a quick puttanesca sauce with some olive, anchovies, capers, white wine, tomatoes, and all of the good olive oil we had in house. Seriously. All of it.
Plating it Old School
The sauce had bits of braised striped bass belly in it. Way better than the jarred tuna I usually use for my fish-and-puttanesca pasta. No fresh herbs on hand, so he went with the dried parsley. How ironic and hip.
It was a damn fine plate of pasta, the fish perfectly cooked, the sauce powerful with the pungent flavors of olives and anchovies.
Scoring the Skin
Harold scores the skin on a couple of striper filets to help render fat and prevent shrinkage when he pan roasts them.
Into the Skillet
Hot oil in a cast iron skillet. The key to really crisp skin is hot oil, and pressure when you place it down so that it stays flat as it cooks.
Plenty of butter to baste the fish with as it cooks. We call it pan roasting, but really it's halfway to deep-frying territory. The butter helps it brown and gives it a rich, nutty aroma. Harold also sticks the liver in the pan ("Have you ever had striped bass liver?" "Actually, no." "Hmm. Me neither. Let's see what it tastes like.").
And a Flip
The fish gets cooked through almost 100% on the first side to make sure the skin stays crisp. Harold flips it over for just a few moments on the second side.
More basting with butter. The hot fat sizzles as it hits the skin, crisping it even further.
Crisp-skinned striper, pan-roasted liver, and puttanesca sauce underneath.
The Office Digs In
Inter Lily, Managing Editor Jamie, former Managing Editor Erin, Art Director Robyn, and Associate Editor Niki had been patiently waiting for lunch. It's served.
A quick stop for the camera before it's time to get home and shower. It's been a rainy, sweaty, smelly, and delicious day for all.