The days are seeming a little longer and the skies are much brighter. Winter coats are slowly making their way to the back of closets and hat and glove sets are retiring, getting replaced by sandals, sunglasses and sunscreen. Spring is an exciting time for Chicagoans, not just for the sun, but for the food as well. Soon patios and porches will be full of the smells and sounds of great cooking and good company and I, for one, cannot wait. Here’s what’s happening with the seafood.
In April, we will start to see lobster availability go up as more areas in Canada open and waters warm. April is also when more boats will be setting traps in Maine and lobstermen will be much more active, increasing harvests. Right now, it looks like there is a light at the end of the tunnel for live lobster, well, at least for the people dining on them.
Alaskan Halibut season is underway and its good news for the buyers at the docks, but for the fishermen, not so much. Traditionally, prices will be at their highest at the start of the season and then decrease as the market settles. This year, however, prices started out lower than expected due to bloated inventories of held-over frozen product and an influx of East Coast Halibut into the market. It will be interesting to see where the prices go from here, whether supply will tighten to demand, or if we finally have relief from the previous year’s market ceiling.
Wild Striped Bass net restrictions were enforced recently in Virginia, meaning we will start to see smaller sized fish for the next couple of weeks. Most fish will average in the five-pound range.
The Corvina moratorium in Ecuador ended in March, so we should be seeing fish reaching the market soon. This is good news for ceviche fans, as this fish is a very popular ingredient in ceviche, especially in South American cuisine.
Skrei Cod is finally back on the menu. The name Skrei comes from the ancient Norse word for “walk” or “to wander.” It’s no surprise that the Norwegian cod who bears this name travels thousands of miles from the Barents Sea to the coast of Norway each year to spawn. Skrei Cod are considered one of the best tasting cod in the world and are only available for a short period every year between January and April, depending on when they show up for their courting activities. Skrei’s long journey imparts rich flavors and firmer texture that aren’t found in Coastal Cod, the name given to fish that do not migrate.
To make sure you are getting the right fish, quality Skrei cod are tagged with the Skrei label to indicate that the fish has passed the strict standards demanded for the honor. A typical Skrei Cod is about five years old and is caught before it spawns. It must be packed within 12 hours of harvest and kept on ice at a temperature between zero and four degrees Celsius. The stock is considered sustainable and the fish are caught and handled with the upmost care and respect, honoring a tradition that dates back hundreds of years.
Looking for a new way to incorporate salt and essential trace minerals into your dishes? Look no further than Mediterranean Seawater. While this may seem like a new-age concept, cultures from around the world have been cooking with seawater for millennia. This ultra-purified, food-grade seawater is sourced from the Mediterranean Sea (86% sodium chloride and 14% trace minerals, compared to 97% sodium chloride to 3% trace minerals found in regular sea salt) and micro-filtered to remove any organic matter and phytoplankton. It is available in a 10-liter foodservice box. As with table salt, seasoning to taste (cutting it with tap water) is essential when using seawater for the first time. Try cooking pasta, rice, grains, potatoes, vegetables and experimenting with the water ratios to fit your own unique palette. This is an essential “liquid salt” that can add variety and complexity to any chef’s skill set.