Images by Lexie Moreland
Recently a friend who was happily vegan for a decade stunningly declared she was back on meat – and pretty content with her decision. And while such a backlash might not yet be registering high on the international trendometer, for those who have done the about face, it’s a good time to consider…what should you actually be eating, if you still want to eat healthy? (Hint: It isn’t filet mignon.)
Now, we readily admit that we have looked at menus at high-profile restaurants, and could not for the life of us sort out the logistics of flying fish over from New Zealand or Thailand all the way to New York, while still managing to keep it fresh for consumption (and for proper star ratings with the right critics). But by all accounts, a lot of those logistical issues have been shifting over to Alaska, as the talk is that the new fish for those in the know will be…pollock – and that’s where they catch quite a lot of them.
The company that is doing most of the fishing is Seattle based Trident Seafoods, who have forty-plus boats trolling the Alaskan waters every day. And the take is a generous haul of Wild Alaska Pollock, which seems to have more buzz right now than the beet and brussels sprouts trends had combined.
Curiously, its biggest champion amongst the American food cognoscenti is the same person – Oberon Sinclair – who first turned kale into the inescapable and utterly mainstreamed sensation that it now is (we’re pretty sure even the Applebee’s in Lubbock, Texas has a kale salad on the menu at this point).
What is driving the enthusiasm is, firstly its abundance – no one needs to worry about the size of the pollock population – and secondly, its qualities of high protein, but low calorie count (Sinclair has enthusiastically dubbed it the “superfish”). This is especially relevant as we head into another holiday season of overindulging in fatty and sugary treats.
“Wild Alaska Pollock truly lives up to the title of ‘superfish,'” enthuses John Salle, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Trident. “Coming from the famously clean waters of Alaska, it is a low-calorie, low-fat, and high-protein option that is finally generating the appreciation it deserves. Given its low level of contaminants and abundance of health benefits, Alaska public health officials frequently advocate for unrestricted consumption of it for people of all ages.”
The numbers don’t lie: one cooked filet equals 80 calories, 19g of protein, and 70mg of Omega-3. And it’s also a great source for various other nutrients and the health benefits that go along with them. To wit, Vitamin B-12 promotes healthy brain function, amino acids strengthen the immune system, phosphorous acts in tandem with calcium to help maintain strong bones and teeth, and selenium protects the body from infection.
But for conscious eaters, Wild Alaska Pollock is also the most abundant and sustainable species on this planet Earth, the result of meticulously responsible management of the fisheries, via the collaborative efforts of government, the seafood companies, and perhaps most importantly, the scientific community. Trident Seafoods and the Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) have been at the forefront.
“GAPP has partnered with leading global sustainability consulting firm Quantis,” Salle explains, “to perform a life cycle assessment of Wild Alaska Pollock. An LCA is a rigorous quantitative assessment of the resource and energy inputs, and the waste and emission outputs, of each stage of a product’s life – from acquisition of the product and raw materials, to transport and processing, and through to distribution, use and end-of-use disposal.”
While the word “sustainable” is surely thrown around carelessly, often for marketing purposes, in this case, Wild Alaska Pollock is genuinely expected to be the most bountiful wild fish in the world for many years to come. Indeed, 85% of the population is left thriving in the ocean each year, meaning there is little chance it could be endangered at any time in the distant foreseeable future. And fishing efforts are amongst the most efficient in terms of incidental catches – with less than 1% of other species turning up in the trawls.
All this is great, of course – but the fish still ultimately must end up on your plate. And once it does, you’ll have to enjoy it, and want to eat it again. So what, exactly, does Wild Alaska Pollock taste like?
“It’s often compared to its cousin, cod,” says Salle, “in the sense that it is a flaky white fish that is extremely versatile and flavor neutral. It is meaty and firm, but is still quite a noticeably light and delicate fish to work with. And because it is caught, processed, and frozen within hours of harvest, that ‘just caught fresh’ flavor is locked in.”
So yes, expect Wild Alaska Pollock to be turing up on many of the best, most trend-aware menus in the coming year. But in the meantime, here’s a particularly delectable fish pie recipe, so you can add it to your healthy holiday entertaining plans. Enjoy!
Wild Alaska Pollock Fish Pie
1/4 c butter
1/2 c dry white wine or dry vermouth
1 c frozen peas
2 Tbsp flour
2 c chicken stock
4 (three-ounce) fillets Wild Alaska Pollock, cut into one-inch chunks
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
Preheat oven to 425°F. Slice the leeks in half the long way, and then slice into quarter- inch half-moons. Rinse the sliced leeks in cold water and drain to remove any silt. Melt two tablespoons butter in a sauté pan, and cook the leeks over medium heat until they become soft and fragrant, about seven minutes. Add white wine and bring to boil to burn off the alcohol. Remove from heat, add the peas, and set aside.
Melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan or skillet. Stir in the flour and cook for two to three minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, stirring constantly until sauce thickens, about three minutes. Add the pea and leek mixture and Wild Alaska Pollock, and simmer for one minute.
Spoon the mixture into a greased eight-inch casserole dish. Remove the pastry from freezer and gently unfold onto a floured work surface just enough to smooth out creases. The pastry may take a minute or two to soften. Roll the pastry gently so that it is large enough to fit over dish with some overhang. Drape the puff pastry sheet over the filling and crimp the edges under the side of the dish to create a seal. Cut two or more vents in the center of the crust.
Set the casserole dish on a baking sheet and cook on center rack for 25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.