I was on the phone with my 82-year-old aunt, and she asked me a question:
What is steakfish?
I had to think about it, and I don’t know what steakfish is. I’m supposed to be my family’s culinary expert, and I had to think about it. I remembered eating steakfish fried on Fridays as a child, and loving it. I’ve noticed the delicacy is scarce, because everytime I go to the market, they are sold out of steakfish.
Now; I know some of you are scratching your head, and may be asking the same question. It is easier to explain what steakfish is not.
It is not:
1) Any fish that is cut into steaks (tuna, salmon, halibut, swordfish, barracuda); or,
2) Hake ( which older people in the African-American community vehemently agree, that what is being sold now is not the steakfish they remember. What is generally passing for steakfish these days is more sinewy and tougher in texture than what we all remember).
Now, let me describe what steakfish is. Steakfish is:
1) A dish that seems to be unique to Baltimore’s African-American community;and,
2) A name given to some species of fish that has a delicate flavor, a texture similar to catfish, and is cut into steaks, and either fried or baked (although I suppose it can be poached as well)
See how non-descript this is? This is the generic description given to almost all white-fleshed fish served in restaurants. How many times have you heard this description when dining out:
Server: Tonight’s fish special is Braised tilapia with fennel, tomato and garlic.
Customer: What does tilapia taste like?
Server: It is a mild-flavored flaky white fish.
Well that’s clear; isn’t it? Well, I have a theory. I think it is some type of hake, just a different species. For example, most crab meat or soft crabs sold now in Northeast markets and served in restaurants is NOT Blue Crab as we know it. It is blue swimming crab, native to the Phillipines, Mexico, Venuzeula, and other locales around the world. It is similar in flavor just enough to fool people who don’t know any better. True blue crab comes from coastal states on the eastern seaboard and southern states in the United states. It is known for its distinctive sweet flavor and texture. I think the same thing happened to steakfish. It may be profitable to use another form of hake and call it steakfish.
So I’ma throwing it out to you: What is Steakfish, exactly? Please enlighten us all.