On Monday, May 20, ten of Chicago’s finest chefs proved that there’s really no such thing as trash fish. Working with our environmental partners at Shedd and Monterey Bay aquariums and Fortune Fish and Gourmet we came up with a species list for our Trash Fish Dinner that read like a who’s who of misrepresented, misunderstood, under-utilized species of fish. The chefs each took a hand at polishing these diamonds in the rough, with delicious results.
Invasive lake species such as Asian Carp and Rainbow Smelt were elevated high above their ill-deserved low culinary stature by chefs like the night’s host, Paul Fehribach of Big Jones, and Laura Piper of Trattoria No. 10. Their preparations of crispy Asian carp cakes and cornmeal crusted smelt were true delights.
Underappreciated ocean species were served as well. Sarah and George Bumbaris of Prairie Grass Café served up the delicious, if often overlooked, Speckled Sea Trout. Patrick and Michael Sheerin of Trenchermen whipped up Sardines. Paul Kahan and Erling Wu Bower stopped by from avec to feed us Bonito. While Paul Virant of Vie and Perennial Virant, featured Pacific Rockfish. North Pond’s Bruce Sherman did a wonderful play on Bluefish, a fish many may love on the East Coast, but looked upon with low expectations by a majority of the country. Chef Sherman’s dish would be sure to change anyone’s opinion.
The point of the trash fish dinner is to change opinions and expectations. “No fish are trash,” said Chefs Collaborative Executive Director Melissa Kogut in her opening remarks on the night of the dinner. “We want people to be open to trying alternatives to the species they know and love and to give over-stressed populations a break.” Melissa repeated a sentiment we shared at our first Trash Fish Dinner in March hosted by chef and board chair Michael Leviton at his Cambridge, Massachusetts restaurant, Area Four, and in two Huffington Post op-ed’s–one by Paul Fehribach and Shedd Aquarium’s Michelle Parker and the other from Michael Leviton, written with the help of our friends at the Environmental Defense Fund.
As consumers, both chefs and diners alike, we often focus too much on too few species when there are other delicious options. We must change this, we must come to understand that there’s no such thing as a trash fish, and that when managed responsibly, choosing to eat these under-appreciated fish can help improve the health of our oceans, improve our own health, and may help to support the beleaguered fishing communities along our nation’s coasts. And, these alternative species are delicious! In Chicago, the chefs proved it.
Paul Kahan and Erling Wu Bower, avec
Smoked Bonito, English pea puree, cacao nibs, fried chickpeas, grapefruit, & pk’s miner’s lettuce
Patrick and Michael Sheerin, Trenchermen
Smoked and pickled Sardine, celeries, manchego, citrus, grilled bread
Laura Piper, Trattoria No. 10
Three Sisters Garden cornmeal crusted Smelt, Genesis Growers Kale salad, rhubarb agrodolce
Bruce Sherman, North Pond
Smoked Bluefish mousse, almond-hazelnut macarons, radishes, baby arugula, honey
Marinated and roasted Pacific Rockfish, dill pickle clam vinaigrette, Nordic creamery cultured butter, “Spring vegetable slaw”
Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris, Prairie Grass Cafe
Sautéed crusted Speckled Trout, River Valley Ranch mushroom duxelle, sautéed spring greens, Three Sisters Garden pea shoot sauce
Paul Fehribach, Big Jones
Crispy breaded Asian Carp cakes, hog’s head gumbo, Cajun-style potato salad, hot and sour pickled radishes
TCHO chocolate boca negra, home made quince honey, Sea Island benne brittle, dulce de leche ice cream, early mint
The nights cockails featuring American Harvest Organic Spirit:
Rhubarb Limeade cooler
Dry housemade tonic, kaffir lime and lemongrass
Chatham artillery punch ca. 1888
The Chicago Trash Fish Dinner was the second in our series of Trash Fish Dinners, an event series happening across the country to help bring awareness to the importance of diversifying the types of seafood we eat and elevate under-appreciated seafood species out of their maligned position. For more information about upcoming events, including our next Trash Fish Dinner, please visit our events page and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.