Getting Carped Out

First of all, be sure to check out this video from the Fox Morning News on Friday 4/9 (I may have a new sous chef, but I still need good ol’ Jens’ help to embed a freaking video).

I’m not sure anymore where this whole Asian carp thing is going. And to be honest, it is costing us a lot of money. Once the cleaning is taken into account, we are left with roughly 10% of usable product off of the original fish. So although the whole fish is deceptively inexpensive, the end product turns out to cost more along the lines of elite fish such as Dover sole (not to mention the ludicrous amount of labor involved in butchering). And although I stand behind it from the ultra-sustainable/find a use for it platform, I am beginning to feel like this poor soul for taking it on in a fine dining environment. As respectable as it may be, it does not stand up to most salt water fish. So, this will be the final week it will be offered as a complimentary tasting, and the last week – barring some unforeseen occurrence- that  it will be on the menu in any way, shape, or form.

All of this aside, it does not mean that this is a lost cause to use as a food source or that this project has been a waste of time:

  • For institutional purposes, there are machines that fabricate the fish so that the waste from it would be a fraction of what we lose in the aims of having a refined portion. So perhaps by shining a little light on it from this hoity toity angle, in some small way it has been de-mystified for others to give it a try.
  • It has been a very educational and rewarding experience – I have been contacted by biologists, politicians, media outlets, and social organizations, and have put my nose deep in documents to get a better understanding of this invasive fish. I may continue to promote it, but no longer here at the expense of other cuisine.

Some misconceptions:

  • It is a bottom feeder and is only good for gefilte fish. Like the common carp used for gefilte fish, it is a filter feeder. The difference  is that it filters plankton and algae from the water and not from the debris that falls to the bottom of the water bed. All degrees of humility aside, we have had a multitude of successful preparations with it and believe we have proven that it is not worthless.
  • It is dangerous to eat since it comes from the Illinois river: Wrong! Because it is at the bottom of the food chain and doesn’t eat other fish, the amount of mercury and other metals is much lower than common fish like tuna, salmon and halibut. And as can be found in this report an expert on the subject was kind enough to provide for me, none of the fish tested even hit the most conservative risk levels of PCB contamination.
  • How did it get here? As they are filter feeders, they were brought into the country to clean the ponds in which catfish were being farmed. As I understood it, they then transferred into the water system through flooding.
  • How is it they will destroy the Great Lakes? Many believe that they will eat all the fish in the water, but as I said, that isn’t the case. They have a penchant for reproducing and what happens is that they completely overtake an environment. I’ve been told that it is almost impossible now for fishermen on the Missouri to catch any other fish. Nets are dropped in the water, and within a bewildering 20 minutes they are completely full with carp! Aside from the fact that all life in water depends on the food source of carp (plankton and algae), you can pretty much kiss goodbye to sports and commercial fishing.

That’s about all for now. As the title suggests, I’m a little carped out.

One Response to “Getting Carped Out”

  1. Jared says:

    Thank you for all your information. It was fascinating to see what kind of dishes you will come up with next. You are the one chef I know that is highly promoting this invasive fish by eating it and I applaud you for your effort. Although a loss cost at the moment, I don’t think this will be end of eating it. I think we just need a stronger demand for it and your efforts has definitely sparked more interest in the community. All this money spent on building fences and using poison is only a band-aid to this problem and will not make the fish go away anytime soon.

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