New England has been my home for the last 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 similar in climate at all, but rather in the relationship to coastal communities, fisheries and, sadly, the extent to which rising sea levels due to climate change would impact us.
In 2010, right after finishing a graduate school thesis on conservation in small, developing island states, I took a job working in agricultural and eco-tourism on Saint Lucia. I came to understand the perils to economic livelihood, the use of traditional fishery practices and the struggle to balance sustainable fisheries in light of climate change.
I worked with a cooperative of women fish vendors and learned fish can be consumed from its guts to its skin, and that the consumption of shark meat and other unsuitable seafoods varieties are usually rooted in pre-commercial artisanal practices. With education, more sustainable options can be found. It was there that I learned about dogfish as a sustainable white fish to replace the overconsumption of mako shark and other shark species.
Dogfish or cape shark (Squalus acanthius) is plentiful in the Atlantic Ocean, especially Nova Scotia and Cape Cod. It is firm, has a sweet and mild flavor and lends itself to be a remarkable substitute to fish and chips, bringing the Trinidad street food Bake n' Shark 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 of the dogfish harvested here in New England is exported to Europe. Because, in spite of best efforts, marketing dogfish here has been difficult.
I hope through this recipe, we can inspire more folks to try cape shark as a vote, with our palates, for a more sustainable white fish option.
Island-style fried cape shark
Prep time: Approx. 2 hours
Active cook time: 30 minutes
- 2 small yellow/white onion, rough cut into chunks
- 3-5 stalks scallions, white and green parts roughly chopped
- ½ green bell pepper, deseeded and largely diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic peeled and smashed (to taste)
- A large handful of cilantro leaves or culantro/recao
- 2 pounds dogfish/cape Shark filet, skinned and cleaned
- ¼ cups green seasoning
- 2 cups flour
- egg wash (2 whole eggs, salt & pepper)
- neutral oil for frying
- salt and pepper
- Make a blended "green seasoning." This mixture can be made ahead. The recipe will make more than you’ll need for the fish, but leftovers can be used to season all sorts of dishes (think of it as a green sofrito). It's quintessential to most eastern Caribbean dishes. Each family has their own recipe and it utilizes all the bits of various aromatics that are usually grown in the kitchen garden. It freezes well or keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- Put all the ingredients into the jar of a blender, add 3 tablespoons of water and process on high until you have a smooth, loose paste. (Add another tablespoon of water if needed for blending.) Transfer to a clean container with a tight sealing lid. Refrigerate until ready to use (or freeze in ice cube trays).
Want to make your own local hot sauce?
- 10 fresh whole yellow peppers and red hot peppers (habaneros or Scotch bonnet), stems removed
- 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender, except for the oil and vinegar. Process until chunky.
- Add vinegar and process until it becomes a paste. Water can be added if needed.
- Pour the sauce into a sterile glass jar and drizzle with the extra olive oil. Cool and cover to store.
Note: If you’d like to lessen the heat of this sauce, deseed the peppers.