Flounder isn’t the flashiest fish we sell, but there’s a lot to be said for a sure thing. Think of flounder as the comfort food of the sea, mild and versatile with a delicate white fillet. Since this fish is available widely up and down the Atlantic Coast, it is a familiar item to both transplants and native North Carolinians. Since it is a flatfish, the fillets, especially on the smaller fish, can be somewhat thin, making it one of nature’s fast foods – you can take this fillet from the fridge to the dinner table in less than 10 minutes. Adaptable to a wide variety of cooking styles, this fish is popular for good reason.
Buying local seafood when it is in season from a trusted source is one of the small, simple steps you can take to improve not only your physical health but the health of communities and industries in North Carolina. We found an excellent resource addressing general local seafood FAQs that walks you through the basics of buying local seafood. We reprinted our favorites below.
What can you do to support local and sustainable seafood?
- Buy local! Removing links in the supply chain and purchasing from regional sources makes it easier to know which boat the fish came off, how long the boat had been out, and how and where the fish were caught. Buying local also means that your fish will be fresher and taste better. Doing so helps support a more sustainable way of life and better jobs in traditional fishing communities. Eating local seafood means fishermen get a better return on less catch—which in turn means the ocean gets a break. Money spent locally tends to stay in the community. Buying from a community-based fisherman also ensures to some extent that you are eating fish that is “in season” rather than perpetuate the century-old demand for “any seafood, any time” regardless of the ecological consequences.
- Eat fish that looks like fish! Stay away from overly processed fish that is turned into squares or fingers or some other shape. And don’t be afraid of whole, bone-in fish. Good cooks know that’s where the flavor is!
- Avoid fake or imitation seafood products. The majority of fake seafood products comes from factory style fishing operations. Alaska Pollock is probably the number one fish that is on the market today in just about every form and shape. It’s turned into surimi to make fake lobster or crab or some other fake seafood product. Incidentally, like herring, Alaska Pollock is an important part of the North Pacific’s food web.
- Be flexible and try diverse varieties.
- Ask how, where, and when your fish was caught. Doing so lets your waiter or chef know you care about their buying choices.
How are local fish regulated?
In 1976, the Fishery Conservation and Management Act (now known as the Magnuson Stevens Act) created eight regional fisheries management councils to develop management plans for their fisheries. The original intent of the Act was to limit fishing by foreign vessels in U.S. waters, and while it subsidized the growth of the U.S. fishing fleet, it did nothing to address overfishing and other resource conservation issues. Since then, Magnuson-Stevens has been reauthorized twice, each time increasing conservation measures, including mandates on annual catch limits and accountability measures to reduce bycatch and end overfishing. The U.S. now has some of the best managed fisheries in the world, although small-scale domestic fishermen continue to struggle as the seafood market expands globally, consolidation of fishing rights increases and imported farmed fish competes with domestic wild-caught fish. Tighter restrictions mean domestic fishermen are limited in how often they can fish and how much fish they can land.
Are fish seasonal? Which ones are the most abundant?
We may not think of seafood as being seasonal, but like fruits and vegetables, it is. As wild creatures, fish have clear-cut, seasonal cycles of breeding, roaming and spawning that dictate where and when they can be caught. Some types of seafood are seasonal because of the fishing regulations in place.
Finalized the menu for your Easter and Passover celebrations yet? Hop to it! Lamb is predictable, ham is for the masses. Start a new tradition this year and treat the ones you love to a North Carolina seafood feast at these special occasions. Bright spring flavors work beautifully with fish, and whole fish can be a dramatic centerpiece that is easy to prepare for a large group. We’ve included a few inspirational recipe ideas below, pre-order to make sure we have the items you need.
This weekend we’ll have not one not two but THREE different types of bass available, Black Sea Bass, wild Striped Bass, and our aquaculture darling Hybrid Striped Bass. Triggerfish – mild, dense and meaty with a beautiful white flake will also be at the markets in addition to other favorites. We’ll see you at the markets!
Much loved by our friends across the Atlantic Ocean, monkfish boast a mild, sweet flavor that has earned it the nickname “poor man’s lobster”. It certainly is one of the most dramatic looking fish we sell, popular with Chefs and retail customers alike for the meaty skinless, boneless tails – not its charming face.
It isn’t too often that the whole fish is available from most fishmongers, but we do try to make it available to our customers when the fish is in season during the winter and spring. The exceptionally large head, used to swallow prey whole, is usually discarded before it reaches the marketplace. Think twice about using the whole fish however, monkfish cheeks are exceptionally tender.
Let’s start with the basics – we sell wild caught catfish. YES. Wild caught, from the brackish waters from the Albemarle Sound. These wild fish have consumed an equally wild diet, which contributes to the mild flavor of the white fillets. The dense and meaty catfish we sell here at Locals is a perfect introductory seafood item for kids, with boneless, skinless, mild white fillets that are 1-4oz each. Its ready to be made into tasty little catfish fingers that come from a real place that’s just a couple of hours away.
Bycatch is a word without charm, and we’re not big fans of the term trash fish either. We love all the fish in the sea here at Locals Seafood, we’d hate to think that any of them overheard us “trash-talking” about underutilized species. That’s why we love sharing information about fish that may not be on your radar. A lot of these species appear when fishermen are actually targeting another, more commercially popular species. Chance brings a lesser known fish onto their line instead of that yellowfin tuna. That lesser known fish actually tastes great. Let’s call it serendipity seafood.
Almaco Jack is one of those serendipity seafood items. A dense, mild, white fish, Almaco Jack is a serendipity seafood that is commonly caught while fishing for larger fish this time of year. Skinless and boneless, the fish is perfect for the grill or the oven, but we love this firm fillet best in the classic fish taco. It is a member of the amberjack family, so feel free to use Almaco in any amberjack recipe you find except this one – might taste a li’l funny.
Friendly reminder that Chapel Hill Farmers Market’s summer hours begin this Saturday. Head over and see Mike D as early as 8am in the new location near Wells Fargo on the S. Estes side of the U Mall parking lot starting this weekend. He’ll be there with a smile and your pre-order. See you at the markets!
We’re passionate about selling just about every fish that is legal to catch here at Locals Seafood. The chefs from top restaurants in the Triangle love our fresh catch, but the stories that we hear from our retail customers at the markets inspire us the most. Early spring in North Carolina means that if the weather is on our side and conditions are right, Shad is running. Traditionally prized for their luscious roe, we thought our intrepid customers might be interested in trying the fillets as well. Here is one customer’s account of her culinary experience preparing Shad.
This is my first experience with shad roe EVER. My husband and his father “in the day” caught shad in Waccamaw and Cape Fear Rivers and ate shad roe by the campfire with flatiron toast, onions and lemons. It’s hard to match a memory like that, so this was a very serious undertaking to me. Here’s my recipe for shad roe, after a lot of reading and LISTENING!
Respectfully Southern Shad Roe
Soak shad roe in salted water and refrigerate for 2-6 hours. Depending on your “love” of the fresh saltwater flavor, here less is more. Prior to removing shad roe from salt water, put a saucepan on the stove on medium/medium high heat adding freshly chopped basil, sliced lemon, sliced garlic, and yes, more salt. Let it boil / simmer until you start smelling the blessed aroma. Now, turn it down and poach shad roe for 1-3 minutes or until you don’t see any red. Remove shad roe from the stove, cut them in quarters and wrapped in center cut bacon securing with a toothpick by “sewing” the toothpick thru the bacon so you can turn them and cook on all sides. Into a preheated skillet they go. Wait for the bacon to thoroughly cook. Armed with fresh basil, sliced lemon, toast and whatever else your heart desires, sit down and enjoy a truly magnificent “rite of spring” from the Carolina’s.
I am happy to report that my husband was pleasantly surprised with the delectable dish placed on the table. My many thanks to Locals Seafood for giving me this opportunity! If shad roe had not been on their website I never would have known this rich history!!!
My sincere appreciation!
Red snapper tastes great! But hold up, we’re talking about vermilion snapper. No, it is not the same fish. Yes they look alike. Yes vermilion is a shade of red. Yes, it is slightly confusing, but all part of that great education that is part of being a Locals customer. Here are some basics you might want to know.
1. Vermilion snapper is not the same thing as red snapper (we just covered that).
2. Vermilion is the most frequently caught snapper along the southeastern United States.
3. Vermilion snapper is a much smaller species of fish than red snapper, growing only to about 6 lbs, whereas the Red Snapper can get as large as 35 lbs.
4. Vermilion fillets can be substituted in just about any red snapper recipe, but whole fish recipes also work.
5. They have a medium texture and flake with a mild, sweet flavor.
There you have it, five teensy little things to remember about this tasty fish that is not red snapper.
See you at the markets!
Grilled Red Snapper with a Fresh Citrus Salad (whole fish)
Roasted Red Snapper & Braised Bok Choi (whole fish)
Finally, a good ol’ regular name for a lesser known fish that we love, banded rudderfish. Its not named after another animal, it doesn’t sound or even look scary, so get to liking it! Rudderfish has been on so many menus at celebrated restaurants in Charleston the last couple of years that folks are used to seeing the rudderfish crudo and rudderfish tartare at hot spots like McCrady’s, Husk, The Macintosh, The Ordinary and FIG. In Chapel Hill, our friend Chef James Clark at Carolina Crossroads at the Carolina Inn has been using Banded Rudderfish for years as well. Don’t let these fancy places intimidate you though, Cabo Fish Taco down in Charlotte has used both blackened and fried rudder for a humble fish taco.
This member of the amberjack family can be found as far north as Nova Scotia, but water temps of about 63 are their sweet spot, and they can often be found in shallower water than other amberjacks. The rudderfish is a firm white fish and can be substituted in amberjack recipes. See you at the markets!
Oh, and just in case you need a li’l tipple while you cook, try an Amberjack. Clearly the most appropriate cocktail to choose while cooking rudderfish.
Pan seared Amberjack w/ Mixed Greens & Crawfish Vinaigrette (or NC shrimp?)
Rudderfish Crudo w Citrus Marinated Flowers and Vegetables (pictured, credit StarChefs.com)
Tilapia from Fresh Keepers Cooperative – Eastern, NC
Products available from Locals Seafood: whole fish, skinless fillets
In a quiet corner of Eastern North Carolina, not far from Goldsboro, Dale Pridgen (pic below) taps into the Black Creek Aquifer 400 feet below ground to source some of the cleanest water in North Carolina. He uses this pristine water to raise tilapia, one of America’s most popular fish. Pridgen heads the Fresh Keepers Cooperative, currently seven tilapia producers across the state. It’s a well-known fish that has experienced negative publicity because of overseas farming practices. We are very pleased to offer this outstanding North Carolina grown product, hailing from a region of the state that greatly benefits from this new economy.
The whole fish present beautifully and dramatically, and their consistent year round availability make the product attractive for restaurant menus as well as home cooks. The skin tone of the fish varies from dark to white, with about 70% of the fish white and 30% dark. This variation in color has no effect on the flavor or texture of the fish.
With a mild, firm white skinless and boneless fillet, this tilapia is easily one of the most versatile fish we offer. Retail customers love the familiarity of the fish, and wholesale customers love being able to provide a locally farmed product that tastes great and fuels a strong business community in the eastern part of the state. Being able to source a high demand, high quality tilapia from a collective of skilled farmers within the state is a win for everyone.