Learning to Skate
August 08, 2011
I'm told the French eat lots of skate. They serve it pan fried, the crispy coating given a good drizzle of browned butter. Here in New England, well, skate is something we traditionally serve to lobsters. In their traps, I mean. Hold the butter.
Skate is abundant in our waters pretty much year round. Like the other "trash fish" we've learned to love, it's one of those fish that is not so much pursued as it is caught by accident. Back when we spent our summers fishing, bringing a skate home was not the best way to win praise from our grandmother.
Skate are rays, and although they don't have the venomous barbs of their cousins the stingrays, they look pretty fierce. What's more daunting is the whole problem of how to get at the good eating on this beast. But dangle the possibility of a great meal in front of my brother Alex and he'll fillet pretty much anything you can catch.
With skate, it's only the wings you want. And they have to be skinned completely. Alex favors skate wings cooked "on the bone." (It's not really a bone, but a layer of cartilage that runs through the center of each wing.) But I like the ease of a fillet. A dusting of flour adds body to a quick pan sauce. Either way, the meat is just as firm and sweet as a scallop.
No wonder Cape Cod lobsters are so tasty. This is some fine bait we've been feeding them.
Skate Wings with White Wine Sauce
2 1/2 lbs. skate wing fillets (one curved fillet per person)
1/4 cup flour
4 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. minced shallot
1/2 cup white wine
a small handful of fresh parsley, about 2 Tbsp., finely minced
a few gratings of fresh lemon zest, as a garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil and one tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet. Meanwhile, quickly dredge the fillets in the flour, season them with a good pinch of salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. When the oil and butter are hot, lay in the fillets and let them gently pan fry until they're golden brown, about 3 minutes over moderate heat. Flip the fillets and brown the other side. Unlike with many other fish, skate's flavor and texture are best when it is cooked through.
Remove the fish to a platter and tent it with foil to keep it warm while you make a quick pan sauce in the same skillet you used for the fillets.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Add the shallot and let it cook to soften for a couple of minutes. Stir in the white wine and let the mixture boil and reduce by about half. Stir in the parsley, and spoon the sauce over the fillets.
Garnish with a fine grating or two of fresh lemon rind to add a tart bite.
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