Seafood Saturday

April 2 - Mattaki Oysters with Pear Horseradish Minonette, Pan Fried Ontario Pickerel, roasted baby potatoes, mache salad

It was a gorgeous day here in Toronto yesterday.  The sun was shining, you just needed a light jacket, I have so been longing for this kind of day and from the traffic and people everywhere, it seemed the whole city was.  All this week I've wanted to hit up Hooked, a new fish monger over in Leslieville.  I popped in there a few weeks ago when I was looking for the mussels for my Mussels with Saffron & Mustard but they unfortunately didn't have any. They promised they were coming in first thing the next morning but, sadly, I needed them that night but I loved how eager they were to serve and l knew I had to go back.

Once the Boy got up and did some errands, I worked out and did some things around the house, I decided that we should take the pups down to Kew Beach for some puppy playtime on the lake.  They're been so good with putting up with short walks due to cold and weather, I thought that Sampson and Stella, who LOVE being out in the sun, probably more than me, deserved some serious outside time. I also saw on Hooked's Facebook page that they had fresh made lobster rolls.  Sign me up!  It may not have been on the way to the beach but it was in the same direction and I convinced the boy that a stop to get some grub fro dinner was absolutely in order.  I grabs the cooler bag and a freezer pack, we loaded the dogs and were on our way.

Since parking was insane, the Boy pulled over in a no parking zone and waited in the car with the pups while I ran in.  I immediately ordered 2 lobster rolls to go and saw that, along numerous things, they had Mattaki Oysters for $12/dozen.  I can't remember the last time I personally bought oysters anywhere but a restaurant and it seemed like a good price to me so I got a dozen.  I then had to decide between a bevy of lovely sustainable fish options.  I loved the look of their house-marinated Sablefish, which was marinated in Miso and Honey, but really wanted to start from scratch with something and saw Ontario Pickerel Fillets.  I've never had pickerel, but loved that this fresh water fish could be obtained locally and decided to go for it.  I recalled seeing an article on Eye Weekly this past week where one of the owners of Hooked mentioned that pickerel was best dredged in flour and pan-fried and I knew this simple preparation was exactly what I was looking for. With a homemade mignonette and fresh horseradish for the oysters, some roasted baby potatoes and a nice salad we were in business.

Pear Horseradish Mignonette
makes 3/4 cup

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider or pear vinegar
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp minced shallot
1 1/2 Tbsp packed grated and chopped pear - juice squeezed and reserved
1/2 Tbsp fresh finely grated horseradish

Mix all of the ingredients a few hours before you plan to shuck your oysters.

I'll be the first to say I know NOTHING about shucking oysters, so if you don't either hopefully you have someone who's able to do it like my guy.  He's not a pro, but it worked and the Mattaki Oysters were delicious.  I tried one completely plain before adding any mignonette and I was hit initially with the a wave of the briny taste of the ocean and it finished with a sweet meatiness that is often found in the little gems from the West Coast.

Pan-Fried Pickerel
serves 2

2 fresh pickerel fillets, with the skin on
1/3 cup flour
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsps cold butter, separated
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup white wine

1.  Mix the flour, pepper, salt & paprika in a shallow bowl.  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is to temperature add 1 Tbsp of butter, dredge the fillets in the seasoned flour and place skin-side down in the skillet.
2.  Cook the fillets' for 2-3 minutes, until the skin is golden brown and crispy. Carefully flip the fillets and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the fish is firm and flaky. Remove to serving platter and reserve.
3.  Add the lemon juice and white wine to the hot pan to deglaze, making sure to scrape up any brown bits. It will cook down quickly in the hot pan, remove from the heat and add the remaining Tbsp of butter, stirring until it melts. Pour over the fillets and serve.

I had never had pickerel before, but really enjoyed the fresh taste of it in this basic preparation.  I'm honestly pretty bummed I can't make it again since it was so easy and so full of flavor.  I'll just have to experiment with other tasty fish and recipes from the people at Hooked.  And if you're in Leslieville you absolutely owe it to yourself to check it out.