Thursday, May 30, 2013

Caramel Shark

Nothing was jumping out at the market.  I couldn't decide on anything that would make a good blog entry.  I didn't want a whole 20 pound grouper or some of the not so unusual cleaned fish.  Then my eyes wandered to the two lonely fish laying in a box of ice.  Hmm, shark?  Why not!!  I turned to the fish monger and said, "I'll take a shark."  His eyes widened, and he replied, "you want a shark?  OK!"  So shark in hand, I left to create something fun and exciting!

Traditionally this might be cooked with catfish, but I found a great little shark at the market.  Commonly known as dogfish or mud shark, this is a small fish that grows to about four feet.  The thick skin can easily be removed with a sharp knife resulting in two beautiful filets.  While not very common in the United States, this type of shark is frequently consumed in Europe including France and England.  I found the meat to be very fresh and mild.  The texture was dense and similar to cobia.  

Vietnamese caramel sauce is a staple of many kitchens.  It is used in clay pot cooking and most cooks will stew down catfish or another hearty fish for about an hour to create the perfect sweetness and color.  While it is cooked in the same manner as a basic caramel, this is a sauce and not nearly as thick or sweet.  The fish sauce adds saltiness, and the chili adds spice.  The balance of salt, spice, and sweet is the end result.

Ca Kho To-Caramel Fish (Shark)
1 ½ pounds shark meat cubed
2 tbsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic minced
3 shallots minced
pinch black pepper
green onions

Nuoc Mau-Vietnamese Caramel
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 chili minced
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp red chili flakes

Clean the shark just as you would a basic fish filet.  You should have two nice large pieces of fish.  Cut them into nice 1/2 inch cubes.  

In a nonreactive pot, bring water and sugar up to a boil and turn down heat to medium high.  Stir frequently to rinse the sugar off the sides of the pot.  The sauce will begin to turn brown.  When it reaches a nice dark brown, add the fish sauce and chili.  This will cause it to seize up, but keep the flame low and stir and it will loosen up again.  Then remove the sauce from the burner.   

In a wok, heat the oil and stir fry the garlic and shallots.  Add the shark meat and brown nicely on all sides, sprinkle with black pepper.  Add enough caramel sauce to coat the fish and toss on medium heat. Garnish with chopped green onions and cilantro

Since I was handling shark, something with a punch was needed to carry the mood.  I was reading Slicing Up Eyeballs, which is a super cool 80s music website, and I saw the Cult was coming to New Orleans.  Well, it was about 20 plus years ago that I saw them live, so I thought they would really enhance the cooking experience.  From the opening guitar licks of "Rain", Billy Duffy had me hooked.  What great memories!  The afternoon was spent cleaning shark and rocking to "Edie", "Sweet Soul Sister", "Nirvana", and many, many more including the 80s anthem "She Sells Sanctuary!" 

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