So, we all want to try to make better choices when we are buying food, right? We try to figure out which foods really need to be organic and which foods need to be, at least, certified hormone free. We are encouraged to go for a drive, meet farmers and see how their animals are raised, go to farmer's market and forge relationships with the growers and make better, informed purchases.
That's all very well until we come to seafood. How are we supposed to meet the sea farmers when it's best to eat wild seafood? How are we supposed to know how to check to see how the fish was caught, who caught it and whether something is overfished? Not so easy to do on our own.
That's where the MSC comes in. The Marine Stewardship Council is an international, non profit organization that was formed to address them problem of unsustainable fishing and make sure that there are seafood supplies going forward. They work with fisheries, suppliers and retailers to encourage a more sustainable seafood market. If you see the blue and white MSC ecolable, you can be pretty sure that the fish that you are buying was fished using proper practices and the entire chain, from the fisherman all the way to the retailer is traceable and, therefore, accountable.
This doesn't only mean that we can feel better about our choices and that we are eating the highest quality seafood, although we all like the ability to feel a little smug about our educated shopping habits. Since 1999, more than 240 fisheries have been certified under the MSC standard and their commitment and the changes they are all making are now contributing to keeping healthy eco systems, reducing waste, restoring habitats and working towards ensuring that our kids and our grandkids won't read about scallops and halibut in the history books long after they have disappeared from the sea and our dinner plates.
If you are really interested in this stuff, and I know I am, go and read more about it here where you can also track actual fisheries, find other certified fisheries and suppliers in addition to more general information than you can shake a trout at. They have even started doing DNA testing on random samples of seafood to make sure fish is labeled truthfully. Over 99% of MSC labelled products are labeled correctly, which is, sadly not the case with non MSC seafood where it is estimated that between 30 and 43% of seafood is not truthfully labeled.
Okay, all that said, I was given a $100 Loblaws gift card to cover my costs so I can help spread the word about the little blue MSC label to my readers. I am always happy to talk about what it is all about, sure, but more importantly, to plan an #OceanToPlate themed dinner party built around MSC certified seafood. Did you know that most of the seafood sold at Loblaws is MSC certified? They are the largest seller of MSC products in Canada so, if you are in doubt, buying seafood from Loblaws is a good start. Just look for the blue label and don't be afraid to ask questions if you are not sure.
Okay, so I decided to make my seafood dinner a challenge. One of my dearest friends, who grew up by the sea on the East Coast, thinks she doesn't like seafood. I don't know if it's because she grew up eating it every day, eating it prepared badly ( we love our east coasters but, my god, they can boil the bejesus out of a lobster) but she just doesn't like it. Now, she WILL eat fish and chips when it's done well and I have seen her eat crab cakes and scallops wrapped in bacon but she draws the line at cooking fish in her own kitchen and even though she makes a mean lobster roll, she rarely tastes one of them.
Since I knew she likes fish and chips I decided to make her something that would have all the flavours of fish and chips but in a form that she would never try unless she was forced to. If I told her to eat a cod cake, she would laugh at me so I had to be sneaky. I poached some MSC Pacific Cod in a bottle of Beau's Lug Tread beer to add in some beer batter flavour and mixed it with mashed sweet potato (she loves sweet potato fries with her fish and chips) and coated the little cakes in crushed salt and vinegar chips before pan frying.
For the entree, I coated sweet, little bay scallops (I was afraid that the large ones would scare her away) in browned butter, threw them in the sous vide for an hour which only intensifies their sweetness and leaves them so soft - nobody can resist a sous vide scallop) and then, after a flash in the pan for a bit of colour, served them on top of cauliflower "risotto" (she and her husband are on a restricted diet right now so rice and potatoes are off limits for them right now)
I am thrilled to say that both dishes were such a big hit that she ate a second Fish and Chips Cake and I caught her stealing scallops off of her husband's plate!
If you want a chance to win your own $100 gift card so you can host your own #OceanToPlate dinner party, make sure to enter here.
the prize was provided by MSC
Fish and Chips Cakes with Lime Tartar Sauce
|makes approx 8 or 9 fish cakes|
1 lb sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1.5" slices
1 lb MSC Cod (I used Pacific Cod)
1 600 ml bottle Beaus Lug Tread beer
handful of parsely, finely chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 large eggs, beaten
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 a bag of Miss Vickie's Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar Chips
Cook, mash and cool the sweet potatoes. I pressure cooked them for 13 minutes at high pressure with a quick release.
In a pan with a lid, cover the fish in the beer, bring to a boil, cover the pan and let it sit for 15 minutes. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and let cool to room temp and break up into small chunks -
In a bowl, mix the mashed sweet potato with the scallion, eggs, parsley, a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper and mix with your hands until everything is just combined.
Crush the potato chips in a plastic bag and pour into a shallow bowl.
Using a 1/3 cup measure, scoop out the fish cake mixture, form into a ball and squish down into a puck shape. Gently lay it on top of the crushed chips and then carefully lay the fish cake onto a parchment lined tray, continuing until you have all of the cakes formed (I got 9 cakes) The mixture is quite damp so be gentle. Press some of the chips onto the tops of the fish cakes once they are all one the parchment lined tray, cover loosely with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge for at least one hour to firm up a bit.
When it's time to cook them, heat some oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is nice and hot, add the fish cakes, not crowding the pan and fry them for about 4 minutes before gently turning them over and cooking them for another 4 minutes.
Remove them to a platter, put a dab of Lime Tartar Sauce on top of each on and serve the rest of the sauce on the side.
Lime Tartar Sauce
1/2 cup Neal Brother's Lime Mayonnaise
2 heaping tbls sweet pickle relish
1 tbls Kozlik's Lime and Honey Mustard
1 tbls drained, rinsed and chopped capers
Mix all of the tartar sauce ingredients and set aside