Well, we all have a recipe on our list that we are not looking forward to making. This week was mine. It is fish sauce made from whole fish heads. I had a bad experience in college when I was taking a class in fish biology. Suffice it to say that the idea of dealing with a whole fish was not something that I wanted to tackle again, but for this challenge I put aside my reservations and went for it.
The first problem that I had to overcome, was actually finding the fish heads. In some areas of the country this may be easy to accomplish, but not so much here in St. Louis. After much discussion with my friends, I decided to try a store that I hadn’t shopped at before. It is called Olive Farmers Market. My friends had said that it was one of the best places to get whole fish.
This was a very unique shopping experience. The outside of the store advertised it to be a Chinese/Mexican store. When I walked in the front door, the store looked pretty typical, cash registers to my right and lots of items on the shelves to my left. That is when the smell hit me. I had to stop for a minute and wait to see if my stomach was going to let me continue. As I made my way through the store the fish smell kept getting stronger and stronger. When I finally got to the seafood section of the store, the reason for the smell became apparent. They had large tanks containing live catfish, bass, turtles, frogs, lobsters, and crayfish. They also had a long tray stacked with all kinds of iced fish from red snapper to octopus. Some of the selections look pretty questionable, but the red snapper looked good. Since that was one of the selections that Marcella had recommended that is what I choose. I ended up having to purchase the whole fish and then I froze the rest of the fish to use later.
The sauce itself wasn’t hard to make. The fish heads are cooked with olive oil, onions, and garlic until cooked through. Then the meat is taken off of the bones and the soft pieces forced through a food mill. The rest of the sauce consists of San Marzano tomatoes and some dry white wine.
I was really impressed with the final product. The pasta that I chose for this sauce was a new cut that we have just added at the store. It is called Garganelli Emiliani. It is similar to Penne Rigate which is one of the choices that Marcella gave in the recipe, but different. I really liked it. It held the sauce nicely and had a good flavor just by itself. The sauce itself was very rich. Michael loved it. He thought it tasted almost like crabmeat. To my surprise I really liked it. I just tried not to think about the fish eyes looking at me as they cooked!! Now that I have overcome my fear of cooking with whole fish, who knows what I will be brave enough to tackle next. I looked through the recipes and the only other one that I have trepidation about is lamb’s kidneys. I wonder what type of adventure I will have to take to find those?