Friday, November 5, 2010


Did you hear about the sharks that were recently caught in the Potomac River? Yeah, I had nothing to do with that. However, I used to row on the Potomac, and I figure it's my civic duty to eat sustainable foods.

In pretty much any habitat you can find sharks, there are people eating them. Obviously coastal regions tend to have a much higher presence of shark activity, which is why you see plenty of them in Japan, Australia, China, and Scandinavian countries. One particularly noteworthy dish from Iceland is h√°karl, which is shark that has been pressed and fermented under sand, gravel, and stone for up to three months, then hung to cure for an additional five more. H√°karl has really made the rounds with celebrity chefs: Anthony Bourdain described it as "the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing" he had ever eaten; upon trying it, Gordon Ramsey spewed out a Technicolor yawn; and for a guy whom I've seen relish raw testicles with hedonistic abandon and orgasmic moans, Andrew Zimmern sure had trouble getting past the ammonia smell. Luckily, as I was cooking for the masses, I decided to forgo the extensive process of fermented, cured shark, and go for something a little more crowd-friendly.

I got two pounds of shark, which was cut extremely thick, pink, muscled, and no ammonia or fish smell. This is how you want your shark. Because I was cooking at a friend's home and not my own kitchen, I didn't have anything but an iPhone, so work with me. The picture comes a little later.

Baked Shark with Shiso Pesto & Tomato-Watermelon Salad


2 lbs shark, portioned into six 6 oz. steaks
2 T butter
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425. The rule of thumb with fish tends to be 10 minutes per inch, so do the math based off of the shark's thickness. Season the steaks liberally, then dot each piece with some butter. Add any remaining butter to the bottom of the pan, then put in shark in the oven for the time calculated.


1 bunch basil (about 1 1/2 C)
1/2 amount of basil in shiso (perilla) leaves (optional, otherwise use an additional 1/2 C basil)
1/4 C pine nuts, toasted
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, grated
2/3 C extra-virgin olive oil (or more, as needed)
1 clove garlic
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Toast the pine nuts, then combine the remaining dry ingredients in a blender or food processor, slowly adding the oil until you've reached the desired consistency.


2 red tomatoes, small diced
1 yellow tomato, small diced
1 C watermelon, small diced
1/2 C of basil and mint, chiffonade
2 avocado, small diced
1/2 C feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 C white balsamic vinegar
1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Combine all the ingredients well, adjusting for taste and seasoning.

This was a massive hit. Each element is delicious by itself or, as I quickly proved, scrambled together in a hodgepodge eyesore. My brother, Billy Bob, and I have been making the watermelon-tomato salad (or some version thereof) for years now. It really is the most mouthwatering, fresh summer accompaniment you could dream for. Shark has the sort of quality you'd expect from seabass: firm and mostly tasteless, but nonetheless adopts the characteristics of whatever it's served with. Typically I sear fish before I pop it in the oven, but because I was in an unfamiliar kitchen, I decided to keep it simple and not worry about it. Due to the long cooking time, the shark was able to attain the desirable crust in the oven anyway. You can't tell, but there's a sizable pile of grilled zucchini underneath the shark and salad in that picture, which I would highly recommend, as it adds sweet-savory crunch and smoky char to the dish. What brought it all together was the pesto. In case you don't know, shiso (common in sushi bars, but you might know it by "perilla") is a herbaceous leaf that is minty with a light anise note. This cornucopia in a bowl turns messy pretty quickly, but each element is terrific on its own or scrambled together.

Shark seems like a good, meaty fish that will adopt the characteristics of the ingredients you serve it with. I highly recommend it.


  1. Of course it's tasty but careful how much you eat. Carnivorous fish tend to have a lot more toxins in their meat added to the increased levels of heavy metals (like lead or mercury) in all fish in general.... unfortunately.