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What’s a Hake, and Why Do I Want It During Hot Weather?

Hake Cuts

Let’s address the last part first. When the weather’s hot, it’s hard to get motivated to cook, much less eat hot foods. That’s one reason salads are so popular in the summertime. Of course, having the garden fixings doesn’t hurt the pop index for salads either! Still, I bet you want something quick to fix, light and tasty, when it’s Really Hot where you are.

Like here in central Texas, where this week we tied, then broke, the record for most 100+° F days in a year. With at least 2½ months of hot weather still left. Sheesh.

So, what’s a hake, and what’s it got to do with all that?

A hake is a tasty white-fleshed fish. It’s in the cod family, and so the taste and texture is very similar to that fish. If you’re not familiar with cod, then where have you been all your life think fish and chips. One of the nice features of this type of fish is, an eight ounce portion is only 150 calories! Smaller portions, such as found in salads, and you’ve got even fewer calories. Other fish can be substituted based on availability, or your own preferences; options like haddock, turbot and so on. (When in doubt, ask your fishmonger.) However, if you’re looking for mild flavor so the other parts of the dish won’t be swamped out, then hake’s a good choice. And with cod getting overfished, hake is actually more available in some places.

It makes a great fish-topped salad too; we’ll get to that in a moment…

Now for the extra-bonus test question: Who is Simon Hopkinson? Well? I’m waiting…

Okay, I’ll tell you. He’s been called the best cook in Britain. His books are outselling Harry Potter (whose cooking skills need some work), and still you don’t know him. Well, fix this salad and you’ll get one small bit of who Simon is. Here’s the plan:

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds hake, scaled, skin attached, in 4-5 equal pieces
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled, mashed into a paste using sea salt
  • 4-5 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
  • About 2 ounces of lemon juice
  • 20 (or so) small, cooked artichoke hearts (good-quality bottled ones will do)
  • Extra olive oil, for sprinkling

Artihokes

Procedure

Salt the hake on the flesh side, as if you were seasoning them normally – plus a touch more. Place in a dish and leave for 40 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, make aioli. Whisk the egg yolk with the pepper and garlic in a roomy bowl until thick. Slowly start to add the oil in the thinnest of streams until it becomes really glossy and ointment-like in consistency. Add a little lemon juice now, to thin the mixture, and continue to whisk in more oil, now less tentatively. Continue in this fashion until you are happy with both the flavour – it should be quite punchy – and the texture – quite thick (this will be loosened later). Set aside.

Thoroughly rinse the hake in cold water and, skin-side uppermost, place in one layer on a plate and put in a steamer. Steam at full blast for 1 minute and then switch off the heat. Leave for three minutes and then remove the lid; check with fork to ensure the fish flakes. Heat a little olive oil in a nonstick frying pan and quietly fry the artichokes, cut-side down initially, and then turn. Allow to gently gild, lift them from the pan and then arrange on to warm plates. Remove the hake fillets from the steamer [make sure to keep their steaming juices], allow to cool slightly, remove the skin, and then carefully flake the fish over the artichokes. Tip out the fish juices from the steaming plate into a small jug [check for saltiness], and then use some of it to thin the aioli until a pouring consistency has been achieved. Spoon this over the assembly and trickle over a little extra olive oil to add a pleasing shine.

———-

That’s it, straight from the best cook in Britain. (Oh, he used those odd metric measurements, but I fooled him; I know where the conversion calculator is in Google.) If you don’t have a steamer or don’t know how to steam fish without one, here’s a helpful link. It’s easier than you think.

Who says you have to starve in the summertime…

Enjoy the (Turbot-Charged Salad, By Cod) Heat!

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