Alex’s Dogfish Sandwich
June 14, 2013
"I'm going to be needing more dogfish around here," says Alex. "It's amazing in fish sandwiches."
I've learned to believe my brother when he starts talking about a fish he likes. But it hasn't been easy to get my hands on much dogfish. Until now.
Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) is a species that annoys local fishermen because it's aggressively predatory––it is, after all, a member of the shark family. Well, since it goes after small cod and the juvenile offspring of other local favorites, why hasn't the Cape fleet targeted it to put it on our tables?
Part of the reason has to do with ups and downs in the population. Dogfish has long been appreciated in Europe. About twenty years ago, when populations shrank there, they turned to our shores for more. So, there was actually a time when regulators found the species had been overfished.
Now dogfish is abundant to the point of being disruptive. But the problem is people just don't know about it. People don't ask for it. And that means domestic markets don't pay a reasonable price for it. So even now, most of the Cape catch is actually flown to Europe, and especially to England, where they love it in fish-and-chips.
We're working with our fishermen to try to keep the local catch here. That should be good for all of us: fishermen who are trying to diversify their catch and eaters, too.
As Alex knows, dogfish is a delicious, meaty, white-fleshed fish. It stands up beautifully to the spicy rub and hot pan searing he gives it for his favorite summer sandwich. But it's a hassle for fishermen. It requires special handling. Those spines pack a punch, for one thing. And the fish share a metabolic characteristic of skate––they release urea through their skin, so to preserve the sweetness of the meat, dogfish has to be carefully cleaned, skinned and iced immediately, all right on board the boat.
We're hoping for good supplies this summer. I mean, have you seen my brother eat?
Alex's Spicy Spiny Dogfish Sandwich
Need I mention that Alex is picky about the bread he uses for his sandwich? He says it's gotta be homemade whole wheat, toasted. And he's a snob about the pickles, too. Elspeth makes her dad's thinly sliced extra crispy dills for summer sandwiches. But I promise this is a darn good sandwich on any good, substantial bread and even with store-bought pickles. We've got the coleslaw, spice rub, and sriracha on hand at our markets, too.
1 1/2 lbs clean fresh dogfish fillets, portioned
1/2 cup spice rub mix for fish, plus salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
8 slices good whole wheat bread
2 cups homemade coleslaw
1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
4 forkloads thinly sliced dill or bread and butter pickles
a good drizzle of Vietnamese sriracha hot chili sauce (we like Huy Fong, the brand with the rooster on the bottle)
Pat the fillets dry, spread the spice rub on a plate, and roll the fish in the rub to dust it well. Don't forget to sprinkle on a good pinch of salt, too. Warm a generous slick of olive oil and a good spoonful of butter in a cast iron (or heavy nonstick) skillet. Sear the fillets in the hot pan. The fish is firm––give it a few minutes on each side to cook through.
Meanwhile, toast the bread––for extra crispy, buttery flavor, Alex always does this in another well-oiled cast iron skillet; you don't have to do that, but if you're using a toaster, you may want to smear a little mayo on your toast before you proceed. Heap four slices with the coleslaw. Add cilantro. Place the seared fillets on the bed of slaw and herbs. Squeeze on at least a few drops of sriracha. Stack on the pickles. Mash on your other piece of toast. Eat with both hands.
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