The Local Food Report: reel a striper in

Have you ever caught a striped bass?

I thought I had—in my version of my first date with Alex, at least, that's how things went. We went out on his parents' boat, drove around the harbor, stared awkwardly, fumblingly into each other's eyes, and came home with my very first fish. A striper, and a keeper at that. I even wrote about it over here.

The trouble is, according to Alex—who if we're being honest really knows much, much more about these sorts of things—is that the bass was a bluefish. I wish I could tell you that when he told me that after reading my column I came up with something witty about storytelling and artistic license, but I didn't. Instead, I cursed my lost bass and vowed to go out again and give it another try soon. Of course it's August and the chances of me heading out on a boat with a rod before the quota dwindles away towards September are terribly, terribly small, but a girl can dream.

In the meantime, you could always head out for me. Couldn't you?

It wouldn't be too tricky. There's a big throng of stripers hanging out in the waters off Race Point, and you could go out from Pamet Harbor or even Provincetown. You'd need to find a boat, of course, and some extra gas and maybe bring a lunch cooler or two, but the sheer number of fish bunched up in that spot would make it worth your while. You'd want to be respectful of the commercial guys down at the docks, even if they seem to have sort of a short temper these days, because they've been dealing with an awful lot of extra traffic thanks to these fish.

And finally, you'd want to have a plan for what to do with the fish once it's caught. That's where, if you'll allow it, I'd like to come in. I might not be able to go out there and reel a striper in, but I can certainly give you a knock-your-socks-off recipe for bass crudo.

Technically, it's Alex's recipe, but I don't think he'll mind if I share. (In any case, the cat already leapt out of the bag in the whole false-bass debacle, so it's a bit late to start keeping secrets now.) It's my absolute favorite recipe for striper there is, and it's also the easiest. All you need is a nice cut of fish—preferably the the thicker head cut without its skin—a few squeezes of lime juice, some cilantro from the garden, and a bottle of hot sauce. Some nice, big crystals of sea salt help too, and peppercorns to grind fresh. Other than that, it will just be you and the bass, sitting down outside with a nice glass of Sancerre.

It's an excellent way to spend an evening, I think. So go ahead, beat me to it—just be sure to tell me all your tall tales about how you caught the fish.


This is a recipe Alex sometimes pulls out at the restaurant, but it's also one we eat at home a lot. It makes enough for four as an appetizer, but if you have a lot of fish lovers in your kitchen, as we pretty much always do, I'd make at least twice as much. The most important part is that the fish be fresh, which, if you're catching your own, shouldn't be an issue in the slightest.

1/2 pound striped bass fillet, skinned (preferably the thicker head cut)
several sprigs cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch of coarse sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Cutting against the grain of the fish, slice the fillet into strips as thin as possible. Arrange the strips so that they overlap just slightly to form several lines across a large, chilled plate. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and press the strips firmly with the bottom of a cup to flatten the fish. (At this point, you can put the fish in the fridge for several hours and pull it out just before you’re ready to serve.) Remove the wrap and top each piece of bass with a single cilantro leaf. Squeeze the lime juice over the fish and sprinkle it with sea salt and cracked pepper. Drizzle olive oil over top and dot the rim of the plate with Sriracha, to be used as a dipping sauce. Serve at once, maybe with a glass of Sancerre or Fumé Blanc.


Anonymous said...

this looks like a great recipe. love that you are out there fishing for your own dinner!

Anonymous said...

Not to worry - there is no quota for recreational fishing, that's just for commercial folks, and from the sounds of your post, I don't think you are holding one of those permits. Fall is one of the best times for striper fishing, and the clearing out of all the tourists makes it even easier to fish and enjoy the beach.
I've caught bass as late as the end of November, so go ahead and try - you've plenty of time to realize your dream!

Elspeth said...

oh, that's right. i knew that, somewhere in this august-muddled brain of mine. hopefully, with any luck then, this fall will be the year!

Slow Julia said...

Just found your blog, and love that you live on the east cost and love fish. I've just started a locavore blog myself, as a diary of seasonal menus and to prove (at least to myself) my hunch that sourcing locally is fun, easy, delicious and cheap! Have you found that to be true? We rarely fish and only have an herb garden -- we buy everything. I'll try the crudo! Go to Slow Julia and take my 2 second quiz! Thanks.

Bie said...

Elspeth,What a great recipe for striped bass.It is my favorite salt water fish! And red snapper is second.Am so glad you are enjoying the striped bass. Hugs Biee

Bie said...

Elspeth,What a great recipe for striped bass.It is my favorite salt water fish! And red snapper is second.Am so glad you are enjoying the striped bass. Hugs Biee

Elspeth said...

Slow Julia:

That sounds like quite a project. And striped bass of course is always a good idea in my book. I don't always find local food to be cheap if you compare it per pound to what you'd find at Stop n' Shop, but I do find it offers better value. Especially when you're buying meat, it is much cheaper to buy a whole pig or whole chicken or whole cow than to buy by the pound. Also, I've found that when you try to shop locally you end up with less impulse buys (i.e. Klausen pickles and raisins and gatorade...) and so even if things are more expensive, you end up saving money.

Good luck and keep me posted!



Biee, isn't it the best? I haven't had red snapper that I can remember, but all of the Jamaicans that I work with absolutely adore it. They have Alex buy it specially sometimes to do fries. I wish you were here so we could make you some crudo!


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