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.
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