Some say spring is here when ramps show up. I love ramps but I know it’s here when our favourite fisherman starts bringing us fish regularly. Last spring he showed up with these Hogchokers and we fell in love with them instantly.
There are a couple of explanations out there for why they’re called Hogchokers – I went with wild hogs choking on them when they were discarded on the beach by fishermen, but I recently found out that the name also means “useless as food.”
These little fish, largest at about 9” that I’ve seen, are a total pain to clean. Tiny scales cling like crazy to the skin and the slime is just neverending. It’s gotta be the most lubed up fish ever – I go through a stack of C-folds just trying to keep them still. They’re also very hardy fish, I know this because one of the ones in the picture below was still gasping for breath and we’re a long way from Montauk!
They seem to have different styles of markings. I like the one below because it reminds me of tiger stripes. You can see the thick layer of slime. Also the tiny face, though you can’t make out that both eyes are on the same side.
These two I put side by side and one upside down to show the really pale underside. I apologise for the glare from the worktop but I had to take the pic at an angle so as not to get glare from the slime. Cool spots on the underside, right?
So these are related to sole. From what they tell me, the closest cousin to sole on this side of the Atlantic. I’ve had great sole but these little flatfish I find to be so much more flavourful. We serve them whole, seared on both sides. The frilled fins get all crispy and the flesh has an intense meatiness not unlike skate (without any hint of ammonia). Delicate strands of meat like skate, too. The skin breaks down as it cooks into a crisp layer with a slightly gelatinous bite.
So the next time you see these guys, definitely give 'em a try.