Five ways with... pollock
In the current climate of concern over the sustainability of some of our most popular fish, pollock makes an ideal alternative choice, winning votes in both the eco and gastro camps. Here are five ways to make the very best of it...
The Marine Stewardship Council has classified Alaskan pollock as a sustainable source and current numbers in the Bering Sea, from where most of the fish are caught, are close to their highest levels ever.
Not only are Alaskan pollock abundant in numbers, the way that they swim and are therefore caught is also very eco-friendly. They move in large shoals near to the surface of the water and so can be easily caught using mid-water trawling methods which do not disturb the sea bed, and so very few other unwanted fish are caught in the nets at the same time.
Alaskan pollock is a member of the cod family and is very similar in texture and taste to cod. It has firm white, flaky flesh and a sweet, delicate flavour. The meat is very versatile and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
1. Baked pollockThe thicker pollock fillets are ideal for baking as their firm flesh ensures they hold together well. Top a fillet with a bay leaf, season with a grind or two of black pepper, then wrap in a couple of slices of parma ham, drizzle over a little olive oil and bake in a hot oven 200C/gas 6 for 15-20 minutes. This is great served alongside lightly buttered new potatoes and a crisp green salad.
2. Deep-fried pollockBeing a robust fish, pollock is ideal for deep-frying, in fact before trade description laws became so strict many fish and chip shops would substitute pollock for cod to save money.
Beer batter complements the delicate flavour well and an ice-cold lager from the fridge, gives a fantastically light result. Pour a 330ml bottle of lager into a large mixing bowl and add enough plain flour to make a batter (thick enough to coat the fish), season well with salt and pepper and add a little chopped parsley if you have any to hand. Lightly coat the pollock fillets in seasoned flour, shaking off any excess, dip into the batter and deep fry in a pan of moderately hot oil for 10 minutes until crisp and golden. Serve with wedges of lemon, chunky chips and a dollop of fresh, creamy mayonnaise.
3. BarbecuePollock steaks or thicker fillets are great cooked on the barbecue, if well wrapped to protect them from the direct heat. Many of the supermarkets sell foil bags with little windows in and these are ideal to use with fish as they can be well sealed to hold in all the juices and flavour.
Take a pollock steak or fillet – either will do – top with a sprig of parsley and a squeeze of lemon and then place in a bag along with a small vine of cherry tomatoes. Seal and cook on the barbecue for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. If you can’t find any of the bags, use large squares of foil lined with a layer of greaseproof paper: bring the edges of both together loosely over the fish and crimp together to seal and form a bag around the fish.
4. Curries and rich saucesThe thickness and flakiness of pollock along with its flavour, make it an ideal fish to use with rich, spicy and creamy sauces. Try Thai curry, combining chunks of pollock with king prawns in a fragrant coconut sauce. Fry a few crushed coriander seeds in a little oil, then toss in some king prawns and fry for 1-2 minutes to seal. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of red Thai curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes before adding a tin of coconut milk and some chunks of pollock. Cook for about 15 minutes until the fish is cooked and the sauce has thickened slightly, serve with sticky jasmine rice, a chopped coriander and lime wedges.
5. As a substitute for...As a member of the cod family with very similar texture and flavour, pollock can be substituted for cod in most, if not all recipes.
The moist, flaky white meat makes pollock ideal for use in pies, soups and fish cakes. The firmness of the flesh is suitable for most cooking methods, including frying, poaching, baking and braising, in fact the one cooking method that does not suit pollock is grilling as this tends to dry out the fish and ruin the flaky texture.
Haddock is also a member of the cod family and so pollock can be used in place of this fish as well. Also, if you can find smoked pollock it can be used in place of smoked haddock in classic dishes such as kedgeree.
All in all, pollock is a little known, but fantastic fish that should be bought whenever seen and used in any recipe that calls for a firm-fleshed white fish.
By Jayne Cross
Image supplied by At-Sea Processors Association