Recipe: Fried island-style cape shark could be your new fish and chips

New England has been my home for 15 years. It reminds me, in many ways, of the Caribbean.

Yes, I know that statement is confusing, but hear me out.

It’s not at all similar in climate, but rather in the relationship to coastal communities, fishing, and unfortunately the extent to which sea level rise due to climate change would impact us.

In 2010, just after completing a graduate thesis on conservation in small island developing states, I accepted a job in agriculture and ecotourism in Saint Lucia. I came to understand the dangers to economic livelihoods, the use of traditional fishing practices and the struggle to balance sustainable fishing in light of climate change.

I worked with a co-op of women fish vendors and learned that fish can be eaten from the innards to the skin, and the consumption of shark meat and other inappropriate varieties of seafood is generally rooted in pre-commercial artisanal practices. With education, more sustainable options can be found. This is where I discovered dogfish as a sustainable whitefish to replace the overconsumption of mako shark and other shark species.

The spiny dogfish or Cape shark (Squalus acanthius) is abundant in the Atlantic Ocean, especially in Nova Scotia and Cape Cod. It’s firm, has a mild, mild flavor, and lends itself to being a remarkable substitute for fish and chips, bringing Bake n’ Shark street food from Trinidad to New England.

Recently, through the Williams Agency’s work with the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA) to host the Boston Seafood Throwdown, I learned that most fruit bats harvested here in New England were exported to Europe. Because, despite all efforts, marketing dogfish here has been difficult.

I hope that through this recipe we can inspire more people to try Cape shark by voting, with our palates, for a more sustainable whitefish option.

Courtesy of Tamika R. Francis

Island Fried Cape Shark

Preparation time: approx. 2 hours
Active cooking time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

Seasoning/marinade

  • 2 small yellow/white onions, roughly chopped
  • 3-5 stalks green onions, white and green parts coarsely chopped
  • ½ green bell pepper, seeded and roughly diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (to taste)
  • A large handful of coriander or culantro/recao leaves

Fish

  • 2 pounds spiny dogfish/cape shark fillet, skinned and cleaned
  • ¼ cup green seasoning
  • 2 cups flour
  • paprika
  • egg wash (2 whole eggs, salt and pepper)
  • neutral oil for frying
  • salt and pepper

NOT

  1. Prepare a mixed “green seasoning”. This mixture can be prepared in advance. The recipe will make more than you’ll need for the fish, but the leftovers can be used to season all sorts of dishes (think of it like a green sofrito). It is the quintessence of most Eastern Caribbean dishes. Each family has its own recipe and uses all the bits of various herbs that are usually grown in the vegetable garden. It freezes well or keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days.
    • Put all the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer, add 3 tablespoons of water and mix over high heat until you have a smooth, loose paste. (Add another tablespoon of water if needed for mixing.) Transfer to a clean container with an airtight lid. Refrigerate until use (or freeze in ice cube trays).

  • Season the fish. Prepare the fish by soaking it in lime and cold water for an hour, then rinsing it in cold water and patting it dry. Cut the fish into sandwich-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper. Then add ½ to 1 cup green seasoning as a marinade and let sit for at least half an hour.
  • Make the fish paste. In a deep bowl, start by combining the eggs with ¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper and whisk until combined. In another deep bowl, mix the flour with the paprika and ¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper.
  • Beat the fish. Dip each piece of fish in the egg wash then coat with flour. Set aside on a wire rack.
  • Cook the fish. Heat the neutral oil in a frying pan, enough to immerse each piece of fish. Fry each piece of breaded fish until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes or cooked to at least 145 degrees. Drain on a towel or wire rack.
  • Dress and serve the fish. Sprinkle the hot fish with another pinch of salt while it is hot.
  • Accompaniments. Serve with hot sauce, pickled cucumbers, cabbage or other sandwich accompaniments between pieces of pita, naan or a “bake” (fried or roasted dough popular in the Eastern Caribbean).
  • Want to make your own local hot sauce?

    INGREDIENTS

    • 10 fresh whole yellow and red peppers (habaneros or scotch bonnet), stems removed
    • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
    • ½ teaspoon of salt
    • 1 teaspoon of vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil

    NOT

    1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender, except oil and vinegar. Process until large.
    2. Add the vinegar and mix until it becomes a paste. Water can be added if necessary.
    3. Pour the sauce into a sterile glass jar and drizzle with extra olive oil. Let cool and cover to store.

    Note: If you want to tone down the spiciness of this sauce, seed the peppers.

    Michael M. Tomlin