Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cookin' up a Stingray

Yes, you read that right. This post begins & took place in Duck, NC. where we were on vacation. We had been fishing from the beach and a friend kept catching skates (not the type you put on your feet to wheel around under a disco ball!). As he was tossing one back he commented how unscrupulous restaurants "cookie cutter" the wings and pass them off as scallops. I pondered that if they tasted like scallops, why weren't we keeping them and eating them? Good point, he acknowledged, and then he agreed we would do so with the next one.

The next one however wasn't a skate. It was a stingray. With the poisonous barb tail. But, a quick look on the ole smart phone revealed they're just as edible as skates. So, he hacked off the tail, let the thing die, and brought it to me. In a cooler. This is my experience with a stingray.

First off, how do you get it out of the cooler without turning into a prancing girl?? I'm not known for being very girly-girl, but I'll admit this had me prancing & flapping about the kitchen like I was trying to fly.

The wings kept turning under. And this is something that can kill you when it's alive. Or when the tail is still on, which it wasn't, but still. Ewww.

I decided that first I should maybe just drain out the cooler.

And that's when the entire thing went sliding out of the cooler and into the sink & I ran, yelping, out of the kitchen. So, Step 1 was solved, it's out of the cooler. Now what?

Well, I was still prancing about. Those wings rolled like slimy tortillas making a stingray burrito. So, naturally, the next logical steps were:

*go ahead and clean the cooler, obviously it would be rude to leave it dirty and smelly, and we don't want to be rude .. so best to go ahead and clean it out

*wash hands, the "slime" seemed to be really clingy

*try to pick up the stingray, watch it fold and slip

*drop stingray back into the sink & then begin flapping around the kitchen

*wash your hands again.

This proceeded on for several long minutes, much to the amusement of friends who were now watching. Time to man-up. I poured myself a stout (more manly, ya know?). I bellied up to the sink, because that is a kinda manly thing to do too. And I faced off with the stingray.

What I had looked up online said to cut the wings off. It showed a nice graphic photo of how to do this which required another swig of beer. I have never prepared a fresh fish before. Never filleted one. Completely new experience.

One note (which was mentioned online) when dealing with a stingray (or skate for that matter) is to make sure you have a solid and stable surface to work on. These things are slippery!!

Another note, which is my own to add, is make sure you have a sharp knife. On vacation, in the rental's kitchen, there were steak knives of decent enough quality, but not so much for carving up this fella. I ended up using a paring knife.

The wings off, this is what the stingray now looks like. I read that you can use a couple other parts (the liver for example), but I'm not familiar with the anatomy of a stingray enough to desire messing around more than this with it.

So, the wings go into a bowl.

Where they are soaked in 2TB lemon juice & a good sprinkle of salt for 10 minutes or so.

The recipes I found online called for barbecuing the wings. Again, being on vacation and of limited kitchen I decided to line a dish with foil, put some bbq sauce (which I just happened to buy on the way down there when we stopped for lunch) both underneath and on top of the wings, fold it all up and cook it in the oven.

That's before the oven. I had the oven on 350 degrees. I had thought they would take quite a while to cook, as I read that cooking them in a pan takes longer than the oven. Luckily, while they were in the oven I happened to talk to one of my brothers and tell him about the experience and how I was "winging it" (get it?!?!). He quickly did a search online for me and found something that said to cook them for 10 minutes. They had been in the oven for 20.

Out of the oven after 20 minutes of cooking at 350 degrees.

Yup, I think it's done. Though I have to admit that the bbq sauce creeped most everyone out because it looked like blood.

Special Note - if you're cooking something like this for the first time, don't cook it in something the color of blood!!

On the plate and ready for trying. It turns out that, once cooked, the skin on this peels right off. VERY easy!! That was nice

A close-up of the now cooked wing. It was nice and flaky. We all tried it and agreed that it wasn't bad.
There aren't bones, which was nice, though there was cartilage, which was easy enough to avoid. In the end I could've likely used less bbq sauce, because the flavor of that was a little overwhelming. Though, the general flavor of the stingray itself seemed a little bland.

Nobody ate a lot of it though. Of course, it wasn't out of the oven and ready for consumption until 11pm, a time by which we had all already had dinner. So that was one reason. Our friend Jesse, who had caught the thing, and I both admitted though that there was a lot of anxiety (at least on our parts) about eating something that could kill you. Potentially. At some point in time. Something none of us had ever eaten or had experience in cooking with.

But, I can now say that I've cooked and eaten stingray. After all, you don't go on vacation to do (and eat!) the same ole stuff you can eat at home anytime, right?

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