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The statement above is the opener for the website of a popular restaurant in the US East Coast. It pretty much explains the concept of “catch of the day.” Whatever the fisherman delivers in the morning is the day’s “special,” which is usually — but not always — the cheapest offering on the menu.
For me, “catch of the day” can mean buying whatever is least expensive in the market and building a dish based on what ingredients were available at a good price. The purchase(s) can be meats, vegetables, or other meal-building inputs.
My last trip to a market in Concord, CA yielded, among certain staples, a tray of salmon trimmings. I’m not really into fillets of fish; they look too much like meat! I rather like other parts of the fish which, to me, are tastier AND more economical. Look at the price of what turned out to be a very satisfying lunch for me and my friend Lori.
When I saw this tray of salmon trimmings, I decided to make pinangat na isda, AKA poached fish. I have included in the photo above the other items needed to make the dish: a couple of tomatoes and some onion.
On a medium-deep pan, I layered sliced onions and sliced tomatoes.No water was required, because the moisture would come from these ingredients, AND the fish.
Do you see the yellowish liquid on the slices of salmon? That’s the patis (fish sauce). In Thai cookery, this seasoning is called nam pla; to the Vietnamese, nuoc mam, and in some parts of Indonesia, petis.
The ancient Greeks and Romans — who so loved it that they often used it to season their pastas — called it by two names: garum and liquamen. The fish sauce “factories” of their period were located along the Mediterranean coast, where there was plenty of fish to ferment in vats under the bright sunshine. Most notable among the fish sauce centers is Antibes, near Cannes and Nice in France.
Here’s a plated lunch, which my friend Lori said completely satisfies her craving for fish.
With a slice of ripe mango for dessert, we were all set!