My Glut Complex

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What’s the best eating fish ever? If you were taking a poll, striped bass would most certainly be in the mix. It’s mild and moist, with a texture that walks the line between flaky and meaty. Before I started catching my own striper, I would eagerly anticipate the commercial season, when I could buy beautifully fresh filets at Joe’s Lobster Mart, on the Cape Cod Canal.

Striped bass is the kind of fish you never think you can have too much of, until the day you actually have too much of it.

That day is today. Arguably, it was yesterday. And, since Kevin and his brother Marty are out fishing right now, it could most definitely be tomorrow.

In the past two weeks, Kevin and I have caught five keeper stripers, averaging about 13 pounds each. That means we’ve netted about 30 pounds of striped bass filet. (Retail value, $500!)

As a result, I have a Glut Complex, a symptom of seasonal eating.

When you eat what you harvest, you cycle between having none, and having much too much. Most of the year, in the striped bass department, we have none, since the bass pass through here only briefly on their way north, and then again later in the year, equally briefly, on their way south. So, briefly, twice a year, we have much too much. Unless we can’t manage to catch any, in which case we still have none, except what our friend Bob gives us because he always catches them and feels sorry for us.

When you have much too much, your mindset changes. Instead of thinking about what a miracle it is that you can go out in a boat and come home with a delicious fish that you caught yourself, you start thinking about how on earth you’re going to manage to eat the huge bowl of striped bass filets in your refrigerator.

Freezer-ready

I’ve made a dent in the bowl by reversing our long-standing policy of not freezing striped bass. Fish that’s been put down in a home freezer (as opposed to a flash freezer) suffers irreparable harm, and until now, when we had fresh striper, we gave it away. This year, though, I decided I could spend the long winter months finding ways to use less-than-perfect fish. We still give some away, and the shelf of frozen filets is expanding, but we nevertheless have a huge bowl of striped bass filets in the refrigerator.

Luckily, when it comes to food, overabundance is the mother of invention. The only way to manage a Glut Complex is to cook your way through it. If life hands you lemons, first you make lemonade. Then you make lemon curd. Then bars, then custard, then soufflé, and then chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons. Then limoncello.

We always grill our first striped bass, and move on from there. I made a creamy pasta one night, and a spicy tomato-based stew another night. And then, last night, the stars must have been aligned, because the striped bass poached with leeks and bacon and a garlic-chive cream sauce was awfully good. Kevin went so far as to say it was one of the best things I’ve ever made, but he’s notoriously easy to please.

Still, I’d like to think my glut management skills are improving. Although I have to admit that striped bass isn’t the real test. For that, we’ll have to wait for the kale

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Comments

  1. OK. So maybe your frozen striper doesn’t taste quite as good as fresh. Still, it’s probably better than frozen farmed salmon. I’m envious as hell. (And those bags look like they’re from one of those vacuum bagger gadgets, so they should do pretty well in the freezer.)

    The only time I’ve experienced this sort of “glut complex” has probably been with zuchinni or green beans, and that’s just not the same. I’m trying to feel deeply sympathetic. But I can’t quite.

    I guess I did have the glut experience with fish once when on a solo canoe trip. Caught a northern pike that was really too big too keep. Ate too much fried fish that night, put the leftovers in tupperware, and then in the lake under a rock so as not to attract bears. Tried to gag down the rest for breakfast the next morning. But no one else ever saw the fish, so you’ll have to believe me…

  2. LOL. Yum you are making me feel hungry.

  3. Kingsley says:

    You could be trading it for other people’s over-supply.

    Or can you make it into something, which will keep better? Fish Pie?

    Perhaps you could trade it with the fisherman arriving in from the water for other types of fish – or sell them hot fish soup!

    Do you mulch up the fish guts any use that on your soil? I read something once about Incas(?) planting fish below their crops. It probably wasn’t whole fish, but I bet the innards would be good. make sure it’s deep enough not to attract cats though, unless you want a glut of cats too.

  4. No sympathy from this quarter.

    On the rare occasions I’ve had ANY striped bass to put up, I’ve found that short-term freezing doesn’t do it any real harm. I happily consume such “damaged” fish.

  5. Fish guts in the garden do make for incredible results, but unless you want raccoons digging them up, bury them under wood ashes. Learned that one from my very knowledgeable neighbor who also gardened. With fish guts.

    I wonder if you could sell the bass to restaurants?

    Let me know when you want my kale and pasta recipe. We can eat it three times a week and not get tired of it. I think it’s the romano, but it could be the bacon. Or maybe the garlic or the red pepper flakes. Anyway, I think I just gave you the recipe.

    Good luck with the glut.

  6. Tamar

    I’m with Tovar on this one, being as crap at fishing as I am I doubt i’ll ever have the same problem.
    But you did make me think, What would salted bass be like? Pretty yummy is my guess, and if there was a historical precedent for it, I would imagine it to be in new England.

    SBW

  7. Yeah, glut management is challenging. But in my opinion it’s the best way of eating, if and when one can pull it off. Kale, by the way, takes to blanching, chopping and freezing pretty well. We eat frozen kale for about as many months of the year as we eat fresh kale. Can’t really say it worked as kimchee though.

  8. Al — That sounds truly awful. Fortunately, our freezer does a better job preserving than the old Tupperware-in-the-lake trick. And I should clarify that I am absolutely, positively not looking for sympathy. I know that too much striped bass is a problem lots of people would love to have.

    Robin – If you were here, I would feed you! There’s plenty to go ’round.

    Kingsley — I love a good trade, but there isn’t much in the way of oversupply around here this time of year. Except for other people who have too much fish.

    There are fish dishes that would probably freeze pretty well, but I’m figuring the same dishes (like fish pie) will work with frozen fish. But I guess I’ll find out.

    Tovar – I should do a comparison of fresh vs. vacuum packed and frozen to see what the real difference is. After all, I have both fresh and frozen on hand!

    SBW – Now there’s an idea! Salted striped bass. The meat isn’t that different … I’m going to have to look into that.

    Kate – Sorry the kimchee didn’t pan out. That would be an excellent use for a kale glut. Like you, I chop, blanch (actually, microwave) and freeze. Kevin’s not a big kale fan, but if I cut it small and don’t use too much, he doesn’t object.

  9. Gluts are weird and wonderfull things. Last summer when I picked about 20 kilos of tomatoes in 3 days I did my usual quick glut routine of: panic, then get ideas, then happiness at having such large quantities and finishing with the conviction that I must plant the same amount next year. The year after of course I’ll start with the panic again….

  10. A glut of frozen fish is a fine thing though. Much better than we are doing this year. One of our dear fishing customers at our vegie stand swears that when you defrost self caught fish you need to do it in salty water. He says to replicate sea water and the defrosting fish sucks it all back in and tastes like it is fresh out of the water. Not having any frozen fish glut of our own to try it on, we don’t know how true his words are. Maybe you could try it out and let us know if it is hokum or not.

    Or…send fish to us in Sydney, and we’ll send kale!

  11. Sean Bowen says:

    Try striped bass ceviche – garlic, red onion, cilantro, lemon juice, and a few hours of waiting. Its a bit of a change up – on the cusp of sushi…

  12. Javier — That’s exactly it! That’s the cycle. I had a thing about panic in the original post, and I took it out, but that’s the feeling. You have some huge amount of food, and you have to do something about it quick. But then you do, and then you feel great. Now, I can only hope for 20 kilos of tomatoes …

    Cath — I think the problem with fish is that the texture changes. As the water in it freezes and expands, it breaks the cell walls and the flesh gets mushy. But, hey, any trick is worth a try.

    And thanks for the kind swap offer … but, after serious consideration, I think I’ll let you keep your kale.

    Sean — Genius! I’m doing it.

  13. Love all the recipe ideas! If you tire of your surplus or run out of room to store it, I will gladly trade you cash for a filet or 2, since we don’t have a boat yet to catch our own.

  14. Dave Proulx says:

    Tamar,

    First of all, congratulations on your striped bass problem! Sounds like you’ve really figured them out. I love fish chowder, and imagine that you could make a pretty good fish chowder or fish stew with the frozen fillets.

    Regarding the “glut” issue, each fall my wife gets a bit of anxiety over the Canada Goose pileups in our garage. By December, we’ve endured several weeks of freezer bulge, then its off to the butcher to have a bunch of goose kielbasa made. End result is typically 75-80lbs of kielbasa, which we divide up into serving size packages that are eaten by us all spring/summer or given out as gifts.

    If you’re still buried under frozen striper fillets in the December, I’d be happy to trade you some goose kielbasa for them.

  15. Dina – I’m holding out for something better than cash. Don’t you have a nice little strawberry patch going in your back yard?

    Dave – I am SO in for that trade! Are you near me? If you are, we have a deal.

  16. Dave Proulx says:

    I’m not right next door to you, but within striking distance. I live in Farmington, Ct.

    I travel to Boston for work occasionally, so a side trip isn’t out of the question for me.

    Alternatively, if you find yourself in the Nutmeg State in the late fall, you’re welcome to help us with our canada goose population control efforts. 🙂

  17. I am having the same issue but with cod at the moment. While I also started off refusing to freeze fish because of the quality issue, I’ve reversed my decision mostly because it’s really nice to be able to eat fish in the middle of winter. Some of my favorite things to do with frozen striper: chowder and tikka masala. They are both great warming dishes, and remind you of the fruits of summer.
    And for your kale glut, I have two words: kale chips.