If you can’t beat ‘em, cook ‘em!
I learned to fish as a young boy growing up in the rural end of Staten Island. We’d skip school on sunny days and good tides to drown worms and clams or soak bunker. My dad taught me a love for all things wild. We would forage, dig clams, drag seine nets for spearing (to eat and for bait), harvest crabs for the sauce – you name it, we caught and ate it.
I got back into the sport after I lost touch with it – new family responsibilities and such, when I met up with a friend that was a surfcaster. I quickly became obsessed again and then joining the Brooklyn Fishing Club in its fledgling years to further my love for the sport and to meet more like minded anglers. I made great friendships and am still an active member.
Like me, you’ve probably caught your fair share of spiny dogfish in recent years. While many folks curse them as nuisance bycatch, I usually put one of the bigger “sharks” in the cooler. They are good eating and could make the difference between making dinner or picking up take out with the new slot limits on striped bass.
First step is to bleed the dogfish and ice it well. As with most Elasmobranchii, the flesh turns quickly if not bled and chilled. Next step is skinning which is actually pretty simple; just cut away all the fins and tail, cut through the skin around the head down the belly and the dorsal ridge to the tail. Using pliers, grasp the skin on one side of the head and pull down to the tail. Repeat on the other side, and remove the head and entrails. You can now cut into steaks or filets. (note: the flesh of spiny dogfish is bone white and opaque; that’s normal.)
8 spiny dogfish steaks or four large filets
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic – sliced
1 onion – chopped
1 shallot – chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes – halved and seeded
1 cup black olives – sliced
1 heaping tablespoon capers
1 cup white wine
1 teaspoon dry oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Start by seasoning the fillets with salt and pepper. Heat oil and garlic in a deep pan until fragrant. Remove garlic and brown filets on each side. Remove and set aside. Next, return the garlic, add onions and shallots and sauté until soft.
Return filets to pan, add wine and reduce to half. Next add the tomatoes, olives, oregano and capers, and let the tomatoes soften. Adjust seasoning and let reduce; the fish will be ready when it reaches 160-degree internal temperature.
Serve with toasted garlic bread (serves four).
The author is chef and owner of Sottovoce Restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. Find him on Instagram (mario.cookss) for his regular social media features on cooking your catch.