Michael’s headed to California today on an invitation from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to attend its annual Cooking for Solutions event where he will be honored with a distinguished group of chefs as a Seafood Ambassador.
The focus of Cooking for Solutions is to help people connect their individual buying decisions to the health of the oceans and the soil. The events support the aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, helping consumers make informed seafood choices while dining out or in the grocery store through pocket guides, website, mobile applications and outreach efforts. Since 1999, it has distributed tens of millions of pocket guides, had more than 240,000 iPhone app downloads, and cultivated close to 200 partners across North America, including the two largest food service companies in the U.S.
Seafood Watch is also a resource for the decision makers on the supply side of the marketplace — restaurateurs, food service companies and retailers like us. In fact, we recently called on their help with a question about grouper. Our sourcing decisions are made based on longtime relationships with trusted local suppliers, first and foremost. So when fisherman George Figueroa from Trigger Seafood came to us wanting to offer spear caught black grouper in the area of the Florida Keys, and because of the particular stigma attached to grouper, we made sure to check with Seafood Watch, too.
There are more than 85 species of grouper worldwide. They’re long-lived (up to 40 years) and reproduce for only short periods, making them especially vulnerable to overfishing. Many grouper species are overfished and on the Avoid list. The U.S. grouper fishery is concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico, just west of Florida state waters. Many grouper species from the Gulf of Mexico as well as grouper from the U.S. Atlantic are on the “Avoid” list. In the Gulf of Mexico, red grouper and black grouper populations have increased and are therefore classified as “Good Alternatives.”
According to Dr. Tom Pickerell, FRSA, Senior Science Manager at Seafood Watch, their recommendation for Black grouper from the Gulf of Mexico DOES COVER those caught off the Keys. Zatcoff (2001) conducted genetic studies on black groupers and found that black grouper from the Florida Keys are genetically identical to black grouper found elsewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, a single stock assessment was conducted for both groups. Two thumbs up; the season is technically May through January, but in June the fish go to deeper waters when it gets hot at the surface. In addition to finding it at MGFD for this short window Trigger can spearfish it, Top Chef Kevin will offer a second course Black Grouper with rock shrimp succotash, garlic chive butter, and either dandelion or mustard greens at SBRAGA Pizzeria on Tuesday.
Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 11th annual summer celebration of organic and sustainably grown produce, sustainably caught seafood and organic/sustainably grown wines occurs over 4 days of events, demonstrations and book signings for audiences ranging from 20 to 2,200 people. Michael’s friend and overall amazing sustainer of responsible, succulente food, Michel Nischan, will receive the Chef of the Year award. Past honorees include Rick Moonen, Alice Waters, Suzanne Goin, Rick Bayless, Thomas Keller, Jacques Pepin, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger and many others. A recipe for sustainability if I ever heard one!
The aquarium evaluates candidates not only for their support of environmentally responsible fishing and fish-farming practices, but also for their role as leaders and educators in the industry who are or can become spokespersons for the sustainable seafood movement.
As an honored chef, Michael will be serving 1,000 tastes of his Cured Sierra Mackerel with Meyer Lemon Aioli & Radish Celery Salad for the gala event on Friday, and we’ve included the recipe here for you to try at home with Spanish Mackerel, the species that makes environmental sense this time of year in our waters. People think of mackerel as oily and stinky. But what we get in here off the Florida Keys is so fresh you don’t even know you’re eating mackerel! When you buy local and sustainable, you get the freshest and most flavorful fish so you only need 2 or 3 more ingredients for a great dish. Case and point below.
Cured Sierra Mackerel with Meyer Lemon Aioli & Radish Celery Salad
Serves 8 as appetizer
1 pound of Sierra Mackerel filet, skin on
½ cup Kosher salt
½ cup sugar
½ cup lemon juice
½ white wine
4 radishes, finely shaved on mandolin
1 head of celery
¼ cup of chives, cut into ½ inch sticks
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon Meyer lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
Meyer Lemon Aioli (recipe follows)
Cut Sierra mackerel in to 1 x 2 inch sushi slices. Dredge both sides in the salt and then the sugar and lay in a non-reactive 9” x 13” baking dish in a single layer. Mix lemon juice and white wine together and pour over the sushi slices. Let sit for 25 minutes.
Take the celery head and remove outer stalks, set aside for another use. Remove the leaves and place in a small stainless steel bowl. Shave inner stalks thinly on a mandolin and add to the bowl along with the radishes, celery, and chives. Set the bowl in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Remove the pieces of fish from the wine and lemon juice mixture and pat dry with paper towels. Wash & dry the baking dish and set the cured fish back in the dish in a single layer and cover with 1 cup olive oil. You can leave the fish out at room temperature for 4-6 hours until ready to serve or refrigerate for up to 1 week. Be sure to let refrigerated fish come to room temperature before serving.
To serve chill 8 small round plates. Place a tablespoon of aioli on each plate and spread slightly with the back of a spoon. Place 2-3 pieces of fish on the aioli and drizzle with some of the marinating oil. Sprinkle the fish with a twist of cracked black pepper. Remove the bowl with the celery and radish mixture from the refrigerator and lightly dress with the meyer lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season lightly with salt & pepper. Top with just dressed salad and serve.
Meyer Lemon Aïoli
Makes 1 cup
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 Meyer lemon, zested and juiced
1 cup olive oil
In a mortar, pound the garlic and salt to form a paste. Stir in the egg yolk, lemon zest, and juice until integrated. Add the olive oil in a slow trickle to the side of the mortar, stirring quickly until completely combined.