Thursday, July 12, 2012

Invasive species, while supplies last!

Posted By on 07.12.12 at 12:23 PM

Phil?...PHIL??
The dreaded Asian carp has invaded yet another location in Illinois: the Taste of Chicago festival. People lined up yesterday for Asian carp sliders with tomato-jalapeno chutney, grilled up for free by Dirk's Fish and Gourmet Shop. The Reader is, of course, the vanguard of all Asian carp journalism, and it sent this intrepid young reporter out to investigate for herself.

The invasive species' fast-growing presence puts the ecology of the Great Lakes in peril, and it also has a nasty tendency to jump out of the water and hit people in the face. As a result, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has started to encourage nonsustainability—they want people to eat the fish, in large numbers, preferably to extinction. It's a delicacy in Asia (no kidding), but it hasn't caught on in America. For one thing, the creature is so bony that it's impossible to fillet; even seasoned chefs are often stumped as to how to get around the pernicious bone structure.

Terry Fucik, Dirk's wife and recipe maker, told me her solution to the bone problem: she grinds her fish on the finest possible setting. The bones are left behind, and the ground carp then goes into tacos, meatballs, and patties.

For the carp sliders, Dirk's team mixed the carp with olive oil and panko, with garlic, lemon, and nutmeg for flavoring. The resulting patty was an unappetizing gray, but the fish had a clean, delicious flavor, with the tart chutney nicely accentuating the carp's light sweetness. The grinding treatment left the patty with a pretty bland texture, but at least there was not a single pin bone to be found. Everyone I talked to in line said they enjoyed it—as Dirk commented, "No one's thrown it out yet."

Officials for IDNR and three soldiers from the Army Corps of Engineers paid the tent a visit. The two groups are working closely together to combat the invasion, as it were. It seems that eating Asian carp's not just good for the environment—it's patriotic.

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