fish tails blog
Schoolhouse stories and troller talk from Southeast Alaska.
You know we're headed out for a week or two on the water when Eric is making multiple pans of seafood enchiladas. They're easy to freeze, and the fish, beans, greens, and cheese are powerful fuel and comfort food. For a long time we made these with halibut cheeks, but now we love them with lingcod. Last night we tried rockfish and these were great too, but of the three (available in our Fish Mix boxes!) we probably like lingcod the best. Lingcod is a surprisingly delicious white fish, and a favorite among locals here in Alaska for fish and chips, fish cakes, and other recipes where a moist, rich white fillet hits the spot.
With the caveat that we are fisher people and not food photographers or gourmet chefs, here's a basic how-to for our fave enchiladas. If you experiment and find a fun twist, send in your recipe with pics and we'll post it for all our customers!
- One pound lingcod, rockfish, or halibut cheeks.
- Plenty of beans - open a few cans, or do as we do when we have time: rinse and boil dry beans, then soak them all day and simmer for 30-60 min with a chili and garlic before preparing enchiladas at night. We don't worry about measuring, the recipe works with a lot or a little.
- Plenty of greens - our farmer friends left us with infinite rainbow chard this week, so that's what we used. You know, just an infinite amount.
- Plenty of cheese - just keep shredding. Jalapeño jack to ensure the win.
- Corn tortillas - we use 1-2 packs of small, sprouted corn tortillas. We love these because they are thick and create a masa-like texture in the enchiladas when layered.
- Enchilada sauce - a couple cans of whatever floats your boat.
- Onions & garlic - at least an onion and 3 cloves garlic per tray of enchiladas.
- Cumin or other south of the border seasoning to taste. Salt, of course.
- Avocado, cilantro, and lime for serving
1. Grab a pound of Schoolhouse fish from the freezer and toss it in a bowl of water. Turn the oven up to 375.
2. Cut up your onion and sauté in oil with cumin, chili and any other seasonings you like. Cut your fish into 1/2"-1" cubes and throw it in when the onions turn translucent. Keep the heat medium, add some crushed garlic and sauté the fish until it's almost done (5-10 minutes). Avoid over frying the fish, this can make it rubbery since you're going to bake it in the enchiladas.
3. Turn the heat off and set the fish aside. Slice up another onion, a little more garlic and begin sautéing again. While the onion is cooking, chop infinite amounts of greens. Saute the greens and set aside.
4. Rub a little oil on your baking dish(es) for non-stickness (who needs teflon?) and pour enough enchilada sauce to cover the bottom. Lay tortillas flat to form the bottom layer of your "enchilada casserole".
5. In whatever order you want, spread beans, greens, and fish on top of the tortilla layer. Add another layer of tortillas, pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the top, and then top with cheese. Put the whole shebang in the oven and bake until its bubbly (20-30 min). If you're smart like Eric, put your second baking dish full of enchiladas directly in the freezer for when you've had a 15 hour day trolling for salmon and you don't feel like cooking!
6. Serve hot and top with fresh cilantro, green and red onion, cilantro and lime.
The wild lupines are blooming and the house smells like fish guts and diesel. It must be time to start getting the spring's catch from our shores to your doors!
New in stock at Schoolhouse Fish Co. are line-caught yelloweye rockfish, halibut cheeks, and lingcod. These classic white and flaky fish fillets make for delightful main fish dish recipes, yummy fish tacos, or delicious fish & chips. All fillets are individually packaged in approximately 1 lb packages, and available by special order by species or mixed together in our 25 lb Fish Mix boxes. As always, if you can get a crew together to order 100 lbs or more, shipping is free and you get 5 lbs free fish for your trouble, and we handle all the invoicing. Inquire for wholesale rates for stores and restaurants.
Eric's been fishing our halibut "quota" with Captain Steve Enge, a 5th generation Petersburg fisherman and Eric's fishing buddy and mentor of 12 years. Lingcod and rockfish come up often on the halibut lines, so we're working on marketing these yummy fish whose flavor and health benefits rival those of the better known salmon and halibut. Back on shore, Malena helps cut halibut cheeks, a special fillet from the tender flesh on either side of the halibut's heads. We sold out of cheeks last year, and supplies are limited for all of the spring white fishes, so let us know if you're interested.
And stay tuned for an interview with Captain Steve on sustainable fishing and mentorship in the Petersburg fishing fleet. Generations of learned knowledge pass from Steve's family to ours every time Eric hops aboard the F/V Monarch for another trip, and we want to share some of the stories with you...
These people have been working hard for decades on behalf of small boat fisherpeople like ourselves. Not only do they advocate for sustainable fisheries management, they also work to promote and support the young fishermen and small-boat fishing businesses that are the heart of a sustainable fishing industry and Alaska's coastal communities. Kudos to Kelly and her team at AMCC, we are proud to support them and hope you will too!
Here's a smattering of our wild interview with AMCC, catch the whole kit and caboodle on their website!
What advice would you share with others looking to start a small business?
Malena: Obviously being successful with a small business is a lot of work, but it’s also an opportunity to be creative. Small businesses are all about implementing dreams and I think the more you can identify and feel stoked about living your biggest dreams, the more successful you will be!
What part of AMCC’s work resonates most with you?
Malena and Eric: We love that there is more and more overlap between advocacy work and entrepreneurship, and that AMCC is embracing that sweet spot between traditional nonprofit work and that of small business. You are leading the way here in AK in showing that “growing the economy” and “saving the planet” are really the same thing if we do it right!
The last few days, like all days in coastal Alaska, were all about tides. Eric rose at 4:30 am on Monday to bring our boat over to the harbor "grid" on high tide, so that when the tide went out we could do pre-season work underneath. The day before, I waited for high tide so I could hop on my paddle board in the tidal slough across our house and paddle out through the harbor to the Inside Passage. Work and play run on the tides here in Alaska, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
Like the tides, the salmon we catch and bring to you have a rhythm, and it's a rhythm we must follow. Most Americans are used to a different cultural rhythm, 9-5, five days a week, and grocery stores full of all food available all the time. Thanks to farmed salmon, Americans expect fresh "salmon" any day of the year. But the real deal is seasonal, and customers who know their fishermen get the unique privilege of learning to think like a wild salmon.
One of the things we want to do with our business is invite you into the rhythm of our lives and get you on wild salmon schedule. While there is some salmon trolling (for the elusive and delicious king salmon) in the winter and spring, most Alaskans catch their salmon (including kings, coho, and sockeye) in the summer and fall. State biologists hold salmon "openings" according to when the different species of fish are running and the type of boat and permit (we have a troller, which have different timed openings than gill netters or seiners). All of these distinct "fisheries" are carefully regulated by Alaska to target the appropriate part of the salmon runs at the right time. Different species run at different times and in different places all over the state. Toss in all the other seafood Alaskans catch commercially - crab, shrimp, halibut, etc. - and it makes for a well-orchestrated symphony of boats coming and going to fish their various openings around the rim of the North Pacific.
This April, Eric has just wrapped up his first fishery, herring roe-on-kelp, which is timed with the spring herring run. For many Alaskans - whether human, bird or marine mammal - the arrival of these tiny, spawning, silver fish means spring has sprung. Next up for us, Eric is preparing to go longlining for halibut and black cod on a friend's boat (ours is set up for salmon trolling). He'll go on a few longlining trip this year to fill his "quota", and we'll cut halibut cheeks when he gets home for our Fish Mix boxes. We'll do some limited king salmon trolling in May when there are openings near our house, but trolling for kings will start for real in June, when Eric and I will go out fishing together as much as possible. While cohos will come around in mid-summer, we think the best quality coho salmon are caught in late summer and fall, so that's when we'll be fishing for the coho that have become a freezer staple for so many of you. We'll also save halibut and rockfish fillets for our Fish Mix boxes while we're salmon trolling.
Of course we can keep salmon in the freezer and dole them out gradually, and we will, but we want you, our valued customers, to know when we're going to be catching and selling the freshest fish. So get with the salmon seasons and check out our 2016 fish list and salmon schedule. Sign up to receive updates and we'll let you know what's fresh. Advance orders help us plan our season and prioritize the fish that you want, so let us know what you're thinking, and we'll make sure and fish direct for you.
Folks, Eric and I are busy planning out 2016: A YEAR IN FISH, our "catalogue" of oceanic offerings for your dining pleasure. We hope to get that out to you ASAP, but be warned, "business" meetings are staggered between lengthy fiberglassing boat projects, long walks on the beach, and Malena's community volunteerism, which is currently out of hand. In the meantime, like a good joke between songs at a bluegrass show, enjoy what may be the world's best salmon poem (I dare you to pen a competitor!). Authored by my dad's buddy, John Dowling. May we always pause to behold the wild silver miracle that sustains us in Southeast Alaska.
Salmon, a poem by John Dowling
I am the Goddamned
dumb with life.
Murderous and Murdered:
feed my desire
as I am food
till river mouth
Like all others and none
I am fat with life and
on this long upstream course
throwing me back.
Pushing whip tailing
throwing me back
to resting silver in silver reeds.
I reconsider nothing.
For I am made and unmade.
I am memory mad for this galaxy of autumn leaves
just beyond my reach.
Published in Intricate Homeland, Headwaters Press, 2000
GMO salmon are (almost) here. But that doesn't mean it's too late to join the resistance.Read More
Now that your freezers are stocked, your mouths are watering and friends are headed over to help you enjoy your haul, we thought we'd share one of our favorite ways to prepare coho.Read More
We're excited to share our stories with you, stay tuned for tales of life at our schoolhouse, on our fishing boat, and in our kitchen (yes, Eric has perfected some great salmon recipes, and you should have them!).