Ever since I have been with Partner Seafood, I have been fascinated with every species that comes in our cold storage. I essentially beg for a case or part of a case to take home and cook up. It doesn't matter what it is.
However, I have also become obsessed with little fish: sardines, herring and capelin. I feel like they are humble fish that don't get the praise they deserve. Bottom of the food chain, but small fish are part of a rich history of feeding the masses, since the beginning of time. They are also packed with protein and because they are so low on the chain, they are low in mercury that has permeated larger species.
So, Capelin Season! This weekend I decided to engage my inner Newfoundlander and take some capelin to the cottage to smoke in my new Swedish Fish Smoker(that is another story for later). On Saturday my neighbor, just getting back from fishing, had a few herring and mackerel fillets to help feed the smoker or further my obsession with small fish.
Now, I have heard of the Capelin harvest in Newfoundland. I have seen the pictures and videos, of them just rolling into shore; people by the buckets scooping them up. For some reason the little fish we work with tends to find themselves off the continent... Never to reach the rest of maritimers plates. Female capelin, especially(full of tasty roe). So, as soon as the first load hit the floor, I took a box of female capelin to "inspect" and make sure it was good enough for our customers.
I looked up a recipe online, but I thought it would be best to just put some pepper on them and let them smoke naturally. The roe in the females it usually very salty, so just pepper and cherry wood smoke. The result was amazing. The herring and mackerel were good, but the little caplelin stole the show. The fish were delicate and tasty without any other augmentation. My neighbor, who brought me the other fish to smoke, had his family down to the cottage; so I thought I would bring some capelin over for them to try. They truly loved them and asked me what they were and where they came from. They all grew up here in New Brunswick and they never tasted capelin, a fish from a couple provinces over(granted Newfoundland is a long way away). Either way, they loved the fish and the story that was behind it. I would assume they would buy them as well, if they were available.
This humble capelin is certainly one of the more underrated fish in the sea. I can't seem to figure out why Canada or the US doesn't embrace this fish more. I would much rather prepare a meal for friends and family with this fish than a tilapia or pangasius.
Having not grown up in Newfoundland or the Canadian Maritime Provinces for that matter, I was never exposed to a lot of the fish we sell from our shores. However, I did grow up on the east coast of Florida and know the feeling and taste of something local or caught in nearby waters. I understand that capelin are a humble, high protein, inexpensive fish; but it certainly deserves our respect as much as any white fish caught in our waters and should be in markets and restaurants up and down the east coast.
Having said all of that. I guess I better get selling that capelin to y'all.
Thanks for listening and ask for capelin by name. Your local fishmonger will find a place to buy the Newfoundland staple and delicacy. At least now you know one place they can buy them.
Nick Fanelli is the Sales & Marketing Manager @ Partner Seafood. His experience, in a number of fields has allowed him to change the way things are done here.