The guys at Pike Place Fish, the market's ubiquitous seafood shop at Pike Place Market, say the most common question they get after "When are you going to throw a fish," is "How do I cook this?" It's long been said that the best person to ask for advice on cooking meat or fish is the person you buy it from. Open since 1965, Pike Place Fish has sold a lot of fish. And no doubt its staffers have passed along a lot of cooking tips. In In The Kitchen With The Pike Place Fish Guys, their first cookbook, they share 100 recipes for fish and shellfish, tips on preparing and storing seafood, information about sustainability, and a little behind-the-scenes peek at the people behind the counter.
Part one of In The Kitchen With The Pike Place Fish Guys focuses on educating readers about farmed versus wild seafood, some background on why Pike Place Fish went sustainable in 2011, and a history of the shop and the passion they have for their customers and Pike Place Market. Part two begins with kitchen tips and cooking advice. There's information on freezing fish, storing shellfish, removing pin bones, and scaling fish (tip: use a curry comb, like the ones used for grooming horses). And there are photos showing how to filet a fish, clean Dungeness crab, devein shrimp, and shuck oysters.
Part three is dedicated to recipes. They are divided into sections for breakfast (Rise and Shine); appetizers (Let's Get This Party Started); salmon; soups, salads & sandwiches; weeknight dinners (Tuesdsay Night Tuna); pastas; raw preparation; Smokin', Grillin', and Chillin'; plus chapters on how to host a clam bake or paella party, and a section on sauces, seasonings, and stocks. Recipe headnotes include a recipe's inspiration, servings suggestions, or stories from the recipe contributor. Many recipes are favorites of someone in the shop, or were inspired or contributed from nearby restaurants, such as Matt's in the Market, or Place Pigalle.
Recipes range from simple cedar planked salmon, spaghetti with clams, and a few different recipes for seafood chowders and stews, to deep fried smelt (known as "fries with eyes"), salt-encrusted rockfish, cod baked in foil packets, and hot smoked mackerel. There are crab-stuffed morels, Thai curry mussels, and everything you need to know about making paella for a crowd. Ingredients are pretty easy to find at your local supermarket (or better yet, from the merchants at Pike Place Market), and preparations are simple enough for the average home cook. Save for the paella, a good skillet and chef's knife are all you need to cook like a fishmonger.
Throughout the book are photos of the folks you regularly see behind the counter at Pike Place Fish, along with the number of years they've been fishmongering, and their favorite fish. Turnover appears to be very low, with many staffers clocking in at over 5, 10, or 20 years with the business. And king salmon reigns supreme for many fishmongers as their favorite fish. From cover to cover, this book gives you a sense that these people love what they do, respect the products they sell and above all want their customers to appreciate fish and seafood as much as they do. As far as the fish tossing goes (the book includes helpful how-to illustrations), that poor fish that gets tossed around throughout the day is never sold. It gets tossed into the freezer after 100 or so tosses, then donated to Woodland Park Zoo or Wolf Haven International to feed the animals.
Catch the Pike Place Fish Guys around town next week as they promote the new book. They have two free book signing events scheduled. The first is at Book Larder on Tuesday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m. The second is at University Book Store on Thursday March 21 at 7 p.m.