Black Pollock and Wild Garlic Mussels

When it comes to food many of us cling to the familiar. It’s easy, we know what we are going to get, and the potential drama from questioning children or spouses often push us back there to that safety net of experience. Even though I don’t necessarily agree with it, it’s certainly at least understandable. I don’t however fully comprehend our issue with fish. Eating just cod for example, and refusing to try say hake, Pollock, or haddock is akin to saying that you will only eat black angus beef or perhaps a hubbard chicken. This becomes even more so baffling when there is such a price difference when it comes to different types of fish, never mind the huge issues of sustainability with certain species of fish that would benefit from a reduction in consumption.

Black pollock and wild garlic mussels

There is an abundance of wild fish in our waters and making an alternative choice will not only help in the sustainability of some fish but will likely see you with more coins in your pocket for a very similar product. In a simplified way fish pricing is based on a few factors; availability, seasonality, abundance or lack thereof, scarcity, rarity, and of course demand. There are other factors but that’s the general economics of it. As a result there can be a possible misconception that a cheaper fish is a lesser quality fish and that is absolute folly. Yes, more expensive fish can often have great flavour but as already mentioned there are many factors contributing to the end price that you, the consumer, pays. A prime example of this ideology is monkfish. Once considered a fish of the poor it now adorns the menus a many a fine restaurant and is naturally lauded for its texture and taste. Do not be afraid to try new fish, you could have a new favourite about to grace your plate. Black pollock, which is also known as coalfish or more colloquially recognised as coley, is a round white fish in that similar family as cod, hake, white pollock, and haddock, among others. A meaty chunky, yet delicate fish it benefits from a light salting about 45 minutes before cooking to slightly tighten the flesh. Before cooking, drain on kitchen towel to remove excess moisture and dust in flour.

Wild garlic

For the following dish there are a couple of notes to consider, especially pertaining to mussels if you’ve never cooked with them before. Requiring a little preparation but delivering abundantly, the first thing to remember about mussels is that they are live. As a result, you should use them as soon as possible but they will keep for about 2 days in your fridge. To prepare rinse them and go through them individually, discarding any mussels that don’t close, or indeed offer some resistance to closing. If in doubt and it doesn’t close, throw it out. You also need to remove the beard if there is one. This is the sort of membrane that a mussel uses to attach itself to rocks in the wild or to rope if farmed. It is most likely that mussels you will buy will have been rope raised ones and the beards tend of be already removed if that’s the case. Find the line where the two shells meet and run your finger down. If you feel any feathery, seaweed like threads, grab with your thumb and forefinger and pull to remove. Use the back of a knife to scrape off any barnacles that may have attached themselves to the shell and rinse under a cold tap. Once all this is done, place the prepared mussels aside and start cooking the dish.

Mussels

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 x 250g black Pollock fillets

For the mussels

  • 750g live mussels, rinsed, de-bearded and cleaned (see preparation note above)
  • A knob of butter
  • 1-2 shallots, finely diced
  • 75ml white wine
  • A handful of wild garlic, washed and roughly chopped

For the broth

  • The reserved mussels liquor
  • 500ml chicken stock (homemade if possible) reduced by half
  • 2 tbsp. cream

For the Wild Garlic Pesto (Optional)

See recipe here

Diced shallot and wild garlic

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large stockpot over high heat and when the butter is melted add the shallot, sautéing gently for 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil.
  2. Next add the wild garlic and the mussels, stir through and place a tight fitting lid on the pot. Steam for 3-4 minutes until the mussels are fully opened and cooked. Strain the mussels into a colander over a bowl and reserve all the cooking liquor. When cool enough to handle go through the mussels and discard any that have not opened. Remove half of the mussels from their shells and set aside.
  3. Add the mussels liquor to the reduced stock, heat and set aside until ready to serve
  4. Place a large frying pan over a medium high heat. Dust the fish fillets with a little flour and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If the fillets have the skin still on place them skin side down and pan fry for about 4-5 minutes, turn over and cook for another 2-3. When the fish is nearly cooked, add the mussels and chicken stock sauce to the black pollock pan. Bring to a boil gently and let the fish gently poach for another minute until cooked through. Finish the sauce with the cream.
  5. Add the mussels, both shelled and in their shell to the fish pan and heat through.
  6. Serve the fish in bowls, dividing the broth and mussels equally. Finish with a spoon of the wild garlic pesto if using. Serve alongside some boiled baby potatoes for a more substantial meal

Serve with a spoon of wild garlic pesto if using

Black Pollock also known as Coley

Black Pollock and Wild Garlic Mussels

Hot and Sour Soup

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