Saturday, February 27, 2010
For years I've been looking at "Mountain Trout" displayed as filets at the Reading Terminal Markets' fishmongers, knowing full well they weren't trout, but not quite sure what they were. Down in Baltimore they call this "Lake Trout".
Today I noticed (at Golden Fish) a sign which identified them, parenthetically, as hake, which is a member of the cod family, as is its very close cousin, the Whiting, which is usually found hereabouts as Silver Whiting, but sometimes called Silver Hake, as if things aren't confusing enough.
All the varieties are interchangeable, as least as far as culinary purposes are concerned. All are suitable for frying, steaming, poaching and baking, though broiling or grilling would be too extreme for these delicate and very mild-tasting fishies. Hake are the most popular fresh fish in Spain, and take particularly well to parsley and potatoes.
In other seafood news, Golden Fish is carrying a new item, head-on shrimp, $7.99/pound. You could probably save a bit by walking over to Chinatown, since that's where Golden procures these formerly frozen farm-raised crustaceans from China.
Nobody asked me, but . . .
Why is farm-raised striped bass more expensive that wild striped bass, a.k.a. rockfish: $6.99 vs. $4.99 at John Yi.
In the event you're wondering, the King salmon at John Yi (and just abou anywhere else) is farm-raised from British Columbia. Like it's Atlantic cousin, it gets its color from feed.
The Produce News
Cucumbers galore at O.K. Lee, including two seedless (or nearly so) varieties: Japanese and English. The former are a buck for what appears to be a one-pound bag with about six of the five or six-inch cukes. The latter are two 16-inches for a buck.
OKL also has bags of green seedless grapes for a buck (a tad more expensive if on trays) and Hass avocados at 49-cents apiece (essentially the same price as Iovine's where they're two for a buck).
Another cucumber-like item normally found in Chinatown made its way to the RTM today: Iovine Brother's had Bitter Melon sitting next to the bell peppers, $2.99/pound.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
A one-pound pack of strawberries for $9.99? Get used to it, at least for the next month or so.
The freeze in Florida and heavy rains in California are taking their toll on off-season winter produce. At Iovine Brothers Produce at the Reading Terminal Market today, the clamshells of Driscoll California strawberries were as expensive as I've ever seen them, $9.99. In late January and into February, Iovines frequently features strawberries from Plant City, Floriday, at bargain prices, typically $1 or $2 for a one-pound pack. Don't expect to see them anywhere near that price this winter. The Florida freeze hasn't yet impacted citrus prices but Vinnie Iovine expects they'll start heading north over the next week or two. He's even, for all practical purposes, out of leeks! About one-third of Florida's total winter fruit and vegetable production has been lost to the freeze.
The Dutch and other growers will take up some of the slack for some of the items, but they'll be priced to reflect the shortages caused by natural phenomena. Chilean fruit isn't expected to be heavily affected, since most of what they grow isn't duplicated during winter in California and Florida, but even the Chilean grapes have been dear, with better quality bunches selling for upwards of $4.99, though some smaller Chilean seedless grapes could be had for $1.99 today.
Vinnie expects his display bins of specials will be heavy on the root vegetables, rather than fruit, in coming weeks.
Supply, demand and inventory hold their sway over fish prices, too. At John Yi today the mackeral was selling for $1.99, vs. $2.49 yesterday -- they gotta move it before it becomes too old. Meanwhile, Golden priced mackeral today at $2.99. A similar price discrepancy could be found in sardines: $4.99 at John Yi and $1.99 at Golden; there was no discernable difference to my eye in size and quanity between the two fishmongers.
Crowds were thick at the RTM at mid-morning today. Partly that was due to the opening of the home show across the street at the Convention Center, but also because of a soccer convention that ends today. Yesterday, DiNic's ran out of roast pork by 4:30 p.m., which Joe Nicolosi attributes to the soccer crowd.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
A steaming bowl of chili or cauldron of soup seems essentially in cold weather. Fish chowder also satisfies that craving for me.
I went with a piece of haddock from John Yi's Saturday. Since I'm the only one in the house who enjoys this New England classic, I only used about a quarter pound of filet. A lot of folks think New England chowders have be creamy and thick. They don't. IMHO, whole milk allows the flavor of the fish to come through best.
I start out by gently sautéing in bacon fat a small onion, a stalk of celery, and half a carrot, all diced to about one-quarter inch. Once they turn translucent I add a medium diced potato, and gently sauté for about 10 minutes. Next comes about a cup of stock (I used vegetable stock made primarily from last fall's red celery from Tom Culton of Headhouse Square, though either fish or chicken stock would work very well) and a cup of milk, which simmers the veggies for another 10 minutes. By this time the potatoes are just about done, so it's time to add the fish (cut up into spoon-sized pieces), salt and pepper to taste, and thyme, dried or fresh, maintaining the pot at a simmer. After five minutes add a tablespoon of butter -- don't stir, just let it melt atop the liquid. By the time the butter adds its yellow sheen, the fish is probably cooked through. Once in the bowl, I top the chowder with fresh chopped parsley. To accompany, I used the last of my precious stock of Crown Royal crackers, a Maine favorite which has been discontinued by Nabisco, but OTCs would work well, too. Saltines and oyster crackers just don't have the necessary heft for those soup.
If you don't like plain white fish, no reason why you can't use shrimp, lobster, scallops or clams.
That filet of haddock at John Yi's in the Reading Terminal Market set me back $7.99/pound, which was also the price of the flounder. Fluke was $9.99. It was also one of those weeks where wild striped bass cost less than its farmed-raised cousin (a striped bass-white bass cross), $4.99 vs. $6.99 for whole fish. Boston mackeral has made an early appearance (it's strongest runs start in the spring), with prices ranging from $1.49 to $2.59, depending upon size. Medium-sized porgies were $2.99, cod filet (which would be an other good choice for chowder) $9.99, black sea bass $5.99.
A Wan's Seafood, the haddock would have set me back $11.99/pound. Whole striped bass as $3.99 (though the quality didn't look quite as good as at Yi's), though the filets were appealing at $9.99. Wan's was the only RTM fishmonger still selling sardines, $3.99.
Golden Fish's new cases displayed wild striped bass at $4.99, whole black sea bass at $4.99, Bronzino (another sea bass, farm-raised in Europe) for $7.99 on the bone, and particularly good looking, fat mackeral at $2.99.