Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Meat of the Moment? Fish

I got a call from a reporter up in the DC area who's working on a story about what the "hot meat" is right now in various food cities around the country. She wanted to know what the meat of the moment was in Charleston. I scratched my head about it for a while and couldn't really come up with anything.

A year or two ago  I would have said, without even batting an eye, "pork, and the fattier the beter!" These days, though, pork fat is definitely on the wane. You can still find chunks of seared pork belly on one menu after another (alongside bowls of shrimp and grits, of course), but the heyday of the pig appears to be behind us.

I was out at The Grocery last night and posed the reporter's question about the hot meat of the moment to chef/owner Kevin Johnson, and he paused over that one for a couple of seconds. "You know," he said finally. "I'm really much more interested in fish and vegetables right now."

That seems to be the trend all over town. The meat of the moment is fish--good, fresh fish plucked straight from local waters. Chefs these days are getting into whole fish cookery the same way, just a few years ago, they were all atwitter about carving up whole hogs.

Skipjack Butchery
A few weeks ago at the Ordinary, chef de cuisine Geoff Rhyne invited me and visiting barbecue writer Daniel Vaughn to witness him butcher a couple of whole skipjacks  just received from Mark Marhefka. In addition to carving off long, dark red, tuna-like loins, Rhyne told us with unmistakable excitement how they would use the collars and the heads to create all sort of new and wonderful treats.

Vaughn, the newly named Barbecue Editor for Texas Monthly and the author of The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue, is a man who knows a thing or two about beef and pork, but even he was impressed with the skipjack.

 Fish is the new pork fat. You heard it here first.     

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