Skating On Thin Ice

I know, it's a cute but corny title. However, it sums up my feelings about this unusual fish. Skate is not like cod or salmon or kippers. It is flat, very flat, like a one-dimensional diamond, with creamy white flesh on either side of a zither type central bone structure.
I had a craving for Skate Wings when I saw them on the fish counter. They looked pinkly pearlescent amongst the silvery grey bream and the brown prepared crabs – somewhat ethereal and, as I thought, quite tasty too.
I shoved them in the freezer for a rainy day (and we’ve had plenty of those to choose from recently) and decided yesterday to haul them back out again for supper.
There are a couple of traditional ways of preparing skate wings: both involve butter but one is black butter and the other is a caper butter. I unwittingly made a combination of the two after taking my eyes of the prize (or butter) for more than a couple of minutes whilst chopping vegetables.
Skate is no hassle to cook. It simply requires flouring and frying in a little vegetable oil for a couple of minutes each side or poaching in a Court Bouillon. It is not, however, hassle free eating. If you enjoy the sensation of swans quills in your mouth then you will adore skate. If, like my husband, you do not, you will end up with a plate of brutally dismembered skate, the quills having been irretrievably mixed into the delicate flesh. I rapidly discovered that there is a method though to eating skate. You have to gently ease the flesh from the cartilage type bones, a bit like removing the chocolate cream from an Oreo cookie, then flip it over and repeat. Coney and Max enjoyed the central boney structure far more than we did. It was their treat. I don't think they cared much for the Capers though: Max probably prefers his in brine rather than salt.
Don't misunderstand me. The flavour of Skate is delicate, creamy and rather special. Sometimes though, I just feel like diving straight in and chowing down hard rather than daintily picking at my food. In fact, I always feel like that!
I served it with roasted tomatoes (which I love but I forgot that Paul doesn't), and the remainder of the weekend vegetables tossed in a honey and balsamic vinegar dressing. I'm not a veggie person normally but these were really good. Plus, I used up all the leftover vegetables from Pauls Sunday Night Stir Fry so this constitutes my Leftover Tuesday (held, this month by Rachel at Rachels Bite) Entry - score!
If Skate sounds like your aquatic cup of tea, here is the recipe:
2 Skate Wings, seasoned on both sides
Some seasoned flour
1 Tablespoon Capers
2 Finely Chopped Shallots
1 Tablespoon Chopped Parsley
40g Butter, cut into cubes
Juice from Half a Lemon
Salt and Pepper
150ml White Wine
For the Vegetables:
Use a selection of crisp vegetables, I used carrots, green beans, spring onion (red onion would be good) and courgette, cut into thinnish batons.
Some Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper
1 Tablespoon Runny Honey
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Grain Mustard
Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. You will probably need to cook the wings in two batches because they are quite large and don't shrink up much when cooking (probably due to it's boney internal structure which I may have mentioned).
Dust the skate wings in the flour and fry in the oil for a couple of minutes each side. Leave to one side on a plate.
In the same pan, gently cook the shallot and capers until they smell fragrant. Pour over the lemon juice and white wine and season with pepper only.
Bring to a rapid boil and reduce down to half, maybe 4 or 5 minutes.
Whisk in the butter, a cube or two at a time until the sauce is translucently creamy. Taste for seasoning, it may need more lemon, some salt or more pepper.
Stir in the chopped parsley and return the skate wings to the pan. Turn down to very low and cover with a lid.
In another frying pan, heat the olive oil and gently saute the vegetables for about 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, balsamic vinegar and mustard. Pour over the vegetables. Taste for seasoning.
Serve in two piles on the centre of your plates.
Gently remove the skate wings from pan using a fish slice (so that's what it's for!) and place, restaurant style, atop the vegetables and serve.

And as a footnote, I would like to thank my American Aunt Marie (Pauls Aunt actually, but I've adopted her) for the foodie bits which we received today. I am particularly enthralled with the wet and dry cup measurer as half my cookbooks are American and the old magazines. How on earth did you know that I liked cooking and vintage cooking at that??? I try to keep it a secret.


Lydia said...

I hardly ever see skate wings at my fish market, but I've eaten them in restaurants many times. I'll hang on to this recipe in case skate finds its way to the local fishmonger. Thanks!

Brilynn said...

I just had skate wings for the first time a couple weeks ago, it has a really delicate flavour.

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

I don't know that I have ever seen skate in Alabama~ sounds delish.

I just got home from a week in London, you are right about the rainy weather! With a new pair of rainboots, I sloshed my way round. Lovely!

Patricia Scarpin said...

You are so creative - this is the first time I see a skate dish, Freya!

Ulrike said...

Although I was responsible for fish as a food chemist for years I have to admit, that I never saw skate, neither in my job nor at the fish monger.
Reading food blogs broad my horizon. Thanks!

Joyce said...

I think the title was very apropos, but the remainder of the quote is just as apt.

"In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed."
Sounds as if Paul used speed rather than Prudence in his deboning effort.
Ergo, Emerson's comment above.

Freya said...

I love Ralph Waldo! But I don't like bones in fish.

Kathryn said...

I like skate, and this looks lovely. Mmm.

Oh and Aunt Marie sounds eminently adoptable. Fab presents!

Kathryn x

Callipygia said...

Isn't skate like the big brother to flounder? I think the flavor wonderful and clean but I'm with you on the work to debone, hate picking.

Chris said...

Very cool - I have never seen skate...I need to check for it next time I am at the fish market. Thanks!

Jasmine said...

I was just looking at some skate today.

Looks wonderful.


rachel said...

I have heard of skate and seen it at some restaurants but I don't think I've ever tried it. I see recipes every now and then but never see it at the store. Maybe because I'm not looking. I heard it's a great fish.

By the way, the Leftover Tuesdays Roundup is now posted. Thanks for participating!