it’s been almost a month now, but i still consistently think about my birthday lunch at ten 01 in portland. it might have been the afternoon light streaming through big open windows in a restaurant that contained only us. it might have been the two martinis or the fact that three luxurious courses were only $15. but i think it was the skate.
there was nothing wacky about it, just sweet corn and bordelaise to adorn, but gentle cooking had left it infinitely moist, with crispy brown bits clinging to its outside.
skate is a bottom-feeder and a ray (thus the wings) and (best of all) cartilaginous. it can be a challenging and time-consuming thing for kitchens to deal with, and thus is often passed over. the fish is covered with connective tissue rather than scales. silvery, with a fine goo and hidden thorns, this must be carefully pared off.
i had two skate encounters in one nyc week recently. one simple and elegant at balthazar, with beurre noir and peppers, the perfect accompaniment to a cloudy afternoon and a carafe of wine. the other was at tailor, in the form of skate frites. the skate was placed in steak form rather than splayed out in the usual invasive fan, and purple potato tater-tots with sweet ketchup were its best friends.
though skate is a worldly fish, that eaten in seattle is generally from the pacific ocean, as it’s found from northern mexico to alaska. lark served it the other night in it’s traditional coating of brown butter, lemon and capers, and a lark twist of hearts of palm and the babiest of all spinach.
underused, underappreciated, and reminiscent of an irobot vacuum, give skate a chance.