Jesse Rose had been catching monkfish for years, but none of his friends ate it. He couldn’t even get his father to give it a try.
“I’ve been pushing free monkfish, handing it out,” Rose, captain of F/V Midnight Our, said.
It took the accomplished captain a little while, but now his father loves monkfish. He just needed the right recipe.
Not everyone has a commercial fisherman for a son, lucky enough to be introduced to “poor man’s lobster” and assorted recipes, which is why Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance just published “Pier to Plate – A Cape Cod Recipe Book, Celebrating Local Seafood and the People who Harvest it.”
The 75-page book, in celebration of the non-profit’s 30th anniversary, is full of recipes featuring local fish landed in abundance. The recipes are matched with fishy facts from Meet the Fleets over the years, when fishermen such as Rose (who is primarily a scalloper) speak to packed crowds about their lives on the water while audience members sample the catch.
“This cookbook memorializes close to 10 years of Meet the Fleets, which have been a popular way to introduce people on the Cape to the variety of fish caught just offshore and how the tradition is still a tremendous economic driver in today’s Blue Economy,” said John Pappalardo, chief executive officer of the Fishermen’s Alliance.
Pappalardo said some of the insights passed on at those gatherings — sea scallops “swim” by clapping their shells together, monkfish have a lure dangling off their heads that attracts prey to their tooth-filled mouth, dogfish are abundant and underloved – are in keeping with the organization’s mission of education and celebrating fare.
“The recipes are from local chefs who seek out the freshest seafood available from the Cape’s historic family-based fisheries,” Pappalardo added.
During Meet the Fleets, chefs are paired with fishermen to de-mystify cooking seafood. The pandemic forced more people to experiment with meals at home and fish shot up in popularity, particularly with the opportunity to buy direct at the dock.
“Everything about this new Fishermen’s Alliance cookbook helps promote our mission to buy local, fresher products,” said Michael “Mick” Beriau, vice president of Cape and Islands Chefs Association. “We support our incredibly hard-working fishermen, purchasing their superior product and providing delicious recipes that give a local ocean-to-table experience. As a professional chef, I feel privileged to be a small part of something so big for so many.”
Beriau offered two recipes: roasted oysters with spinach, feta and lemon dill aioli, as well as BBQ oysters parmesan with linguica and pickled red peppers. There are pro tips paired with recipes and stunning photographs of fishermen on the water taken by photographer David Hills.
Captain Kurt Martin, a Meet the Fleet veteran who fishes for lobster, black sea bass and other species, said cookbooks and education introduce locals and visitors to delicious local fish. Take black sea bass:
“It’s a great fish, very available, caught locally and well-sought after,” Martin said.
Still, only a few Cape fish markets offer it. Without off-Cape markets there wouldn’t be much of a demand.
“Eating it whole is a great experience, but people are afraid of eating whole fish,” Martin said.
Luckily, the cookbook addresses that with a Yucatan-Style Grilled Whole Black Sea Bass recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Samuel Greene of The Pheasant restaurant in Dennis.
Cookbooks are on sale $20 each https://cape-cod-commercial-fishermens-alliance-shop.square.site/
If you are a business owner and would like to carry the books, contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-945-2432, ext. 107 to discuss the wholesale opportunities. Books are sold in cases of 12 and come with a barcode ready for retail use.
Doreen Leggett is the Community Journalist for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance.