The Freshest Grey Sole From Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester

Baked Grey Sole

Editor’s Note: This was posted during the 2020 Pandemic and of course things have changed. Since then, Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester has continued to operate, and expand, their retail seafood truck.

As I write this, there is talk of a possible meat supply shortage and my recent visits to the supermarket have been a crap shoot depending upon when and where I go. It’s obvious supply chains are in flux as they adapt to changing conditions and buying habits.

Meanwhile, commercial fishermen and seafood buyers are having to find ways to get their fresh caught fish to consumers in the face of so many restaurant closures. Here in Gloucester two neighboring businesses are doing their best to fill the gap.

Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester and Minglewood Harborside have teamed up for curbside, no-contact pickup of the freshest seafood around. Judging from what I can see, business has been brisk, and it should be. The boys are fishing, but with a lot less demand due to the Shutdown. We should all be eating more fish anyway and there is no more delicious way to support our local fishing industry.

Over the past few weeks the tandem have been offering fresh caught, haddock and day-boat sea scallops for what amounts to below-retail prices. A 2-pound bag of haddock fillets for $15 and fresh shucked scallops for $15 per pound? You would be hard pressed to find prices like that anywhere for seafood of this quality.

perfect grey sole gloucester fishermans wharf

Recently Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester had some of the most prized flatfish in New England waters: Grey sole, also known as witch flounder. This grey sole was brought in by the F/V Midnight Sun, skippered by Captain Tom Testaverde, so you know it’s fresh and in pristine condition. With a price of $10 per pound, we lucky locals are getting one of the best New England fish for an incredible bargain.

How Does The Seafood Curbside Pickup Work?

Their process is very simple, Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester has been updating what is on offer through their Facebook and Website. However you can always just call them during the scheduled times to see what is available and make an order. If you are in the area you can just drive up to the front of Minglewood Harborside where the staff will be ready to take your order. You can even get sides and other items off their current menu.

curbside pickup minglewood harborside

For the grey sole, I called ahead and ordered a 2-lb bag. It took no time at all, I had my passenger side window open and they placed my package in my open mini cooler. It has been the easiest drive thru experience I’ve had since we all became hermits over a month ago.

About The Grey Sole

Witch flounder (Glyptocephalus cynoglossus) is a right-eyed flounder species that is most commonly sold as grey sole in the US and as Torbay sole in the UK. Its body shape, thin white fillets, and mild flavor give it qualities marketable as a “sole”. I grew up eating a lot of grey sole since it’s my mother’s favorite fish. After trying true Dover sole I think the flavor is pretty close, but not the texture. Dover sole is more firm. Grey sole on the other hand, almost melts in your mouth.

Grey sole catches are currently under tight management, which is why it is not a cheap fish at a restaurant or the fish market. When I do see it at the fish market it is typically a few dollars more per pound than I want to spend. All the more reason to grab a couple of pounds, who knows if I will ever get grey sole at this price again. When I brought my grey sole home I froze about half for another time…like money in the bank!

As I took a look at those gleaming white fillets it reminded me of just how lucky I was growing up. We ate grey sole fried almost every time. Fried grey sole is easy and delicious.

How many times back then did I come home to the smell of fried grey sole? As a 12 year old paperboy the old-school Sicilian fishermen’s wives like my great-grandma and Lena Novello would give me my money envelope along with a few pieces of fried grey sole or whiting on Fridays.

However my wife is not a big fan of fried fish and if I were to be honest, I hate frying fish in my small house, everything gets covered in grease. I also started noticing that my recent seafood images online all sort of look the same. Golden, brown and delicious is a way of life for me, but I decided to make something a little more colorful now that spring is upon us.

Baked Grey Sole with Citrus and Herbs

Recipe by Buying SeafoodCuisine: SeafoodDifficulty: Easy
Prep time

5

minutes
Cooking time

15

minutes

Grey sole is a delicate fish so adjust ingredients and cooking time based upon how thin your fillets are. Any flounder or flatfish would work as a replacement with a slight difference in taste and tenderness.

Ingredients

  • 1-1.5lbs Grey Sole fillets

  • Half stick of Butter

  • 1 Lemon – juiced/zested

  • 2 Limes, 1 juiced/zested, one sliced

  • 1-2 bunches fresh baby spinach

  • Fresh herbs – chopped (chives, dill, parsley, basil)

  • 1/2 Shallot minced

  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced

  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

  • Pre-heat oven to 400F. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and cover the bottom with baby spinach.
  • Melt the butter and add the shallot, garlic, lemon and lime juice. Mix the citrus zest into the chopped herbs and them stir into butter.
  • Pat dry the grey sole fillets and feel along the centerline for any remaining bones. I used kitchen shears to cut along the center of some of the fillets to remove them.
  • Cover the spinach with the grey sole fillets evenly, then cover everything in the butter and herb sauce.
    grey sole on bed of spinach
  • Top with sliced lime wheels and cook for about 15 minutes.

    grey sole with citrus butter and herbs

How Was The Grey Sole?

I don’t think you can screw up grew sole, unless you overcook it, but after 15 minutes it was perfect. I know it is supposed to be baked but with all the liquid it came out poached in lemony herb flavor. Grey sole being very delicate in texture just melted in our mouths. The lemon/lime, the butter, all the herbs…this has to be a $40 entree in a restaurant and I even got to have seconds.

Thank you to Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester, Minglewood Harborside, Capt. Tom and the crew of the F/V Midnight Sun!

Delicious Stuffed Clams Delivered By Eclectic Clam

Stuffed clams and potatoes

It’s hard not to be impressed with the creative ways the food service industry is adapting to our current situation. Locally it’s not just restaurants offering curbside pickup and delivery service, several seafood companies have gone direct to consumer, offering fresh caught fish, lobsters, scallops, and now…stuffed clams!

I was recently notified that Eclectic Clam, a favorite at the local farmer’s markets and events, was offering no-contact delivery of their stuffed clams to Cape Ann this week. Although available for curbside pickup, the drive to Amesbury seems a little far considering the stay-at-home order. The price seemed right, it helps local business, it supports our local seafood industry and I’m not about to go making “stuffies” from scratch at this point.

eclectic clam package

My grandmother used to make amazing stuffed clams, which I attempted to imitate when I ran a small cafe, but it’s been decades and I’m rusty. Maybe when life returns to something we all would call normal I will attempt my own stuffed clams…possibly with low FODMAP ingredients.

About Eclectic Clam

Eclectic Clam is the father and son team of Greg and Jeff Farrenkopf out of Amesbury, Massachusetts. They make their signature stuffed clams, along with a soon to be released fish cake, at the Kitchen Local shared commercial kitchen in Amesbury. You can usually find their stuffed clams at various events and farmers markets in Essex County. In fact, I recall seeing their booth last year at the 2019 Gloucester Schooner Festival down at Maritime Gloucester.

With farmer’s markets and possibly even the Schooner Festival on hiatus, Eclectic Clam is now offering curbside pickup as well as a rotating schedule of delivery to various local communities.

I missed their previous visit to Cape Ann (Essex, Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Rockport) but I got in early for their next delivery by ordering online.

Eclectic Clam’s “Stuffies”

Eclectic Clam uses freshly harvested “cherrystone” sized hard shell clams and two varieties of stuffing mix, one with chorizo. I had my cooler and ice packs ready as they suggested and they showed up in the afternoon. My order consisted of four one-pound packs, each having two stuffed clams. They came nicely vacuum sealed and solidly frozen. I put two packs in the refrigerator to thaw overnight.

When it was time to cook them, it was as simple as lining a small roasting pan with foil and taking the stuffed clams out of the packaging. Even before the hit the oven Eclectic Clam’s stuffies looked and smelled excellent. I just followed the instruction on the packaging, which said to place them in a 400F oven for about 15-20 minutes.

About halfway through the cooking time the kitchen was filled with the aroma of clammy goodness. Pardon the paraphrase, but I love the smell of seafood stuffing in the evening, it smells of…dinner. In 16 minutes I served these beauties nestled beside a pile of roasted cheddar baby gold potatoes and prepared for a seafood dinner of minimal effort and maximum flavor.

The Verdict On Eclectic’s Stuffed Clams

eclectic baked stuffed clams

The clams were densely packed and full of that classic New England flavor you find in the best of the old-school seafood restaurants. The difference is with two stuffed clams you get almost an entire meal, they are seriously packed. If you like lots of lemon, like me, you will be doing a lot of squeezing. I don’t like bell pepper, and there was plenty, but I knew that going in. As long as I can taste the clam and the other flavors, it’s not a problem. They were delicious, ’nuff said.

The wife and I were in agreement: Eclectic Clam makes a fine “stuffie” – both delicious and filling. If you live within their delivery area, you can’t go wrong with some stuffed clams in the freezer.

Whether its dinner in quarantine or prepping for the day we can entertain again, Eclectic Clam can have a killer appetizer or dinner ready in no time.

Gloucester Fresh for Outstanding Atlantic Halibut

herb topped halibut

Supporting local food suppliers has never been more important, be it restaurant, local grocer, farmer or commercial fishermen. Here in Gloucester, lobstermen are out of work with the demand for lobster, from China and our local restaurants, gone for now. Our local dragger and gill net fleets, already dealing with tight restrictions in the best of times, are now at risk with so many places closed.

In both cases there is plenty of supply, but demand and the supply chain that supports it are struggling. If dealers can’t sell the fish, they won’t buy the fish, which mean the fishermen won’t catch the fish. Commercial fishing is a very capital-intensive business, when a fishing boat is not making money, it is losing money. As we still await the coronavirus peak here in the US, there is no telling how long our fleet will continue to fish, so I’m trying to do my part as long as I can afford it.

Where I live, fresh seafood has an easier route to the store than eggs, steak and apparently flour. Steve Connolly Seafood on the Gloucester waterfront is part of the Gloucester Fresh program and unlike the meat counter at the local supermarket, their supply comes straight off the boats. I paid them a visit the other day and left with some haddock, which I froze for later, and 1.75 pounds of Atlantic halibut fillets.

I recently made some halibut that I got at Whole Foods (back in the Before Time) which was delicious. However Gloucester’s Mayor Sefatia reminded me on LinkedIn to get Gloucester Fresh halibut next time. Our Mayor is both a healthcare and fisheries advocate as well as a great communicator, keeping our community updated as the pandemic starts to grip Cape Ann.

Atlantic Halibut from Steve Connolly’s Seafood

This is my go-to spot for fresh seafood on the Gloucester waterfront. On this last visit the variety was down, as expected, but there was plenty of cod, haddock, lobster meat, and halibut in both fillet and steaks. Halibut is never cheap, but at $17.95 a pound it is hard to say no.

skin on halibut fillets from Gloucester

The fillets were in great shape, with the skin on. When I opened the package I noticed I got one fillet from the top of the halibut (the dark skin) and one fillet from the belly (the white skin).

My original idea was to pan roast the halibut with an herb topping, like several recipes I saw online. However as dinner time approached, and my energy level dipping, I decided to make the topping but roast the halibut instead. I know it would be better if I pan roasted the fish, but oven roasting takes care of itself, while I work on a side dish.

Oven-Roasted Gloucester Halibut With Herb Topping

Recipe by Buying SeafoodCuisine: SeafoodDifficulty: Easy
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

20

minutes

A simple baked fish recipe with a savory herb topping.

Ingredients

  • 1.5-2lbs Fresh Halibut

  • 1-2 Slices of Day-Old Bread or 10-15 Saltine Crackers

  • 2 Tbsp Dried Herb Mixture (Parsley, Rosemary Dill, Thyme)

  • 1 Lemon: Zest and Juice

  • 2 Tbsp Butter

  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425F.
  • Put bread, herbs, zest, butter, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse to a course texture. The topping should be very green and fragrant with the herbs so add more if needed. Place in a small bowl and add lemon juice to make a moist paste.
  • Take halibut fillets, portion if necessary, and season well before placing on a parchment lined baking sheet. Top with the herb mixture halibut herb topping before oven
  • Roast for 15-20 minutes. When done, slide fish spatula under the fillets to remove the skin.
    gloucester halibut out of the oven

After thinking about all the hands touching produce, I was apprehensive about getting fresh herbs like parsley. I already had plenty of dried herbs but I got a container of semi-dried parsley that was a perfect compromise. I kept the biggest fillet of halibut for myself, but I cut the other fillet in two for my wife.

My kitchen knives are horrible and could not cut through the tough halibut skin. Fortunately my kitchen shears did the job. The fish was done in just under 20 minutes and I served it atop couscous with mushrooms, grape tomatoes and shallots sauteed in butter and vermouth.

The Verdict: How Was The Gloucester Halibut?

The halibut was perfectly cooked and very moist, which was good since I forgot to add butter to my topping, making it a little dry. Otherwise it was delicious. It looks similar to many of my other baked fish recipes, but the herb combo with lots of parsley and rosemary gave it a different flavor. I heard that rosemary and halibut go well together and now I’m a believer.

I might play around with this concept in the future, I especially want to try the pan roasted variant. However I’m pretty sure a topping like this would be good on just about anything, not just seafood.

Atlantic Halibut from Whole Foods was a Good Buy

Roasted Pesto Halibut

I prefer to get my fish from a local fish dealer or co-op rather than the supermarket. However talking to people from all across the country it’s obvious that many seafood loves don’t have access to a good stand-alone seafood market. They rely on their local supermarket for seafood, so I have been buying fish from a local Whole Foods lately in the name of research.

So far I have liked the variety of fish, both familiar and non-local that I see at the Whole foods fish counter. This recent trip they had Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish), Alaskan black cod and plenty of local caught hake, haddock, cod and flounder. It’s been a while since I had a nice piece of halibut. Whole Foods had previously-frozen Atlantic halibut fillets on sale for $18.99 so I brought home a pound.

Thawed Atlantic Halibut Whole Foods

I did not plan on cooking it that night, so I kept the fish wrapped and placed it atop a frozen ice pack and placed it in the back of my refrigerator meat drawer. When bringing fish home remember the colder the better until preparing. Most refrigerators are not really cold enough to keep your fish for long. The ice pack, will help keep things a few degrees colder and allow the fish to stay fresh for a day or two.

The fish was previously frozen, which means that re-freezing was not really an option. It is not recommended from a food-safety standpoint to do this. If I’m being honest, I have put previously frozen fish in the freezer and many fishermen I know have as well. I never had a problem with it, but I don’t endorse the practice. Do as I say, not as I do: Don’t re-freeze your fish.

The Fish: Atlantic Halibut

Whole Foods offers both Atlantic and Pacific halibut when available. Atlantic halibut is still recovering from past overfishing, but the species is making a comeback. Atlantic halibut is not currently subjected to overfishing in American waters due to years of heavy restrictions. Only one fish, with a 42 inch limit is all that can be brought in per trip. What gives me hope for the future is that more and more boats have been bringing in that one legal sized fish, meaning more and more of these huge flatfish are growing to marketable size. We are decades away from reaching NOAA’s target for the Atlantic halibut biomass, but it looks like we are headed in the right direction.

Roasted Halibut With Creamy Herb Pesto

Recipe by Buying SeafoodCuisine: SeafoodDifficulty: Easy
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

15

minutes

This is NOT a low-FODMAP recipe, but it is not far off the mark. I tend to omit garlic from my pesto anyway but with a few modifications it could a true low-FODMAP seafood dinner. Be adventurous in your selection of herbs, any that go well with fish will make a nice pesto. The addition of lemon not only works with the fish, but helps keep your pesto greener.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Halibut steak or fillet

  • 1/2 oz each of fresh Basil, Dill, Mint, Italian Parsley

  • 1/4 cup Sour cream or Mayonnaise

  • 5-7 Almonds or equivalent weight of Pine Nut, Walnut or Pistachio

  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino, Parmigiano or Grana Padano

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 1 Lemon for juice and zest

  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425F. Season halibut with salt and pepper.
  • Put herbs, almonds, a pinch of salt, and a bit of the lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until broken down, then gradually add oil until you have a nice paste. place in a bowl, add the cheese, some pepper and taste before adding the sour cream.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment, place halibut skin side down and coat with the creamy herb pesto.
    Halibut ready for oven
  • Bake for about 15 minutes and let rest for a few minutes before serving.

Notes

  • Make sure there is enough lemon flavor and then fold in enough sour cream to make it silky. If you want a more pesto flavor add less sour cream.

My ratio of herbs made for a light and bright flavor that also made enough to use as a nice dip for toasted sourdough bread. Since the potatoes I planned as a side would take longer I gave them a 15 minute head start. The fish itself took about 18 minutes. I let it rest for about 2 minutes and after that you could tell it was white, opaque and flaky…no thermometer required.

The Verdict: Atlantic Halibut from Whole Foods

The thing about halibut is that if it is good quality, it really don’t need anything at all. The pesto cream sauce was mild and allowed the halibut taste to come through. I also like the combo of dill and mint in the pesto and I will have to try it again, maybe on some salmon. Once again, a pretty good piece of fish from Whole Foods.

Many of us do not have access to a high quality fish market, but if you have a Whole Foods in your area, you have access to good seafood. That goes for many other supermarkets as well, Frozen or previously-frozen is not a sign of bad quality, ask any fisherman. Most of them have their freezer filled with fish. When in doubt ask the fishmonger about what they are selling, if they don’t know what they are selling move on to the frozen section. If the frozen section is letting you down, maybe it’s time to start buying your seafood online.