I was in my favorite food haunt on Saturday when I saw a large skate on display. About 2 kilos in weight, this was a fairly large specimen as far as fish on the slab go. I’ve seen these before and could never muster the level of adventurousness required to actually buy and cook one. Not so today – I actually bought the thing. Surprisingly, the fish mongers had no idea how to cook or clean it. I guess it must be an usual thing for them – something that gets delivered once in a while by mistake.
Anyhow, brought it home and took a while finding books that had something to say about the fish. I did want to wake up the next morning you see… and not puffed, bloated or incontinent either. This fish has a slightly ammoniacal odour, that goes away somewhat on washing and completely on subsequent cooking.
As you can see in the picture, the central band of skin is a different texture than the rest, which is a bit slimy, as is usual for fish. The central band however, is leather and very tough.
To Cut: The edible portions of the fish are (a) The wings (b) The cheeks and (c) The liver. You’ll need to cut all around the leathery portion to get at the edible flesh. The rest can be used to make stock if you’re up to it, after removing the leathery part. And oh, you could also skip the tail and attached organs. You’ll end up with two long pieces of wing that are totally edible and contain only one layer of tightly packed bones. Safe eating all the way!
To Clean: Make a vertical cut under the fish to access the pocket containing the organs like the liver, stomach etc. Pop in and pull out everything. I didn’t keep the liver as I’m not a big fan of liver, skate or not.
I’ve kept one wing to make the classic way, i.e. with black butter. One wing I marinated with salt, chilli powder, ginger, garlic and turmeric and deep fried. It takes a little longer to fry than normal fish. When done, it looks quite ordinary, till you eat it. The skin is quite delicious and you can make it crispy if you like. Below the skin, as in the picture, the flesh is quite different from other fish, in that it is a little firmer, arranged in vertical strips and quite tightly packed. The reason (I think) the flesh is so very good to eat is that we’re actually eating the wings, which comprises most of the fish – and th wings are actually all the muscles, which have a superior texture to the flesh itself – which is in the cheeks.
We ate it with plain, boiled rice and it was quite good!