Saturday, December 17, 2011

Total Catch Market

4410 W. 12th Street

I first heard about Total Catch Market last spring when it opened but it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I stopped by to check it out. Since then it’s become a regular Saturday morning trek for me and seafood has been a lot bigger part of my diet that ever before.

Though I grew up within 15 miles of the coast, seafood was never a big part of my family’s diet. The fish we ate came out of the deep freeze or cans, just the way General Electric, Gorton’s, God and Starkist intended. Only occasionally did we go fishing (and even less often came home with anything). I don’t even remember that there were seafood counters in grocery stores back then. Yes, Texas is beef country, right down to the coast.

It’s not as though I don’t like fish; there have been only a handful of fish dishes I’ve had in my life I haven’t liked and I love virtually all shellfish. It’s just that the habit of eating seafood was never formed and has never taken root.

That has changed rather dramatically since I’ve been going to Total Catch. I’ve eaten more seafood in the last couple of months than I usually eat in a whole year. And it hasn’t been farmed catfish, farmed tilapia and farmed salmon but far more interesting and tasty fish, straight out of the Gulf. And I've been eating out a lot less.

Total Catch sells the bycatch of Gulf fishermen, little known but tasty fish that you’re likely to find only at ethnic seafood markets (I’ve seen some of these fish at Fiesta stores, for instance) or not at all unless you catch them yourself. Each Friday they post on their blog what fish they’re going to have the next day, together with some brief descriptions and maybe suggestions for preparation. The market is open starting at 9am on Saturday in the small retail storefront at the Lousiana Foods warehouse on West 12th Street, off of North Post Oak. Get there early or you may miss out completely or have very slim pickings but it does depend on how much catch they have and how big the crowds are, so it varies.

Barrelfish and Triggerfish have been my favorites so far. The triggerfish looks like a fish only it’s mother could love, perhaps, but it’s a very tasty, very firm-fleshed fish. That’s almost a 3 pound fish (it’s about half skull); I did it whole, on the grill, and had fish tacos from the leftovers for a couple of days. The barrelfish (about a 14 oz filet) was even better, with a texture reminding me of pork loin. I’ve had that as filets, steaks and in fish tacos. I was told it is sometimes sold as Bel Grouper (not sure of the spelling as there is no such fish), because it’s similar to grouper. I’ve seen it at one of the Fiestas near me labeled ‘gruper’ with barrelfish in parentheses on the sign.

I”ve also enjoyed the Porgy (I believe that was Silver Porgy) and Blue Runner and the Beeliner or Vermillion Snapper. The first fish I tried was a Blackbelly Scorpionfish but I forgot to take a before picture and the after picture was not a pretty sight as I really overcooked it on the grill - it had been a long time since I grilled a fish. I've also had hake and drum.

One of the things I like about Total Catch is how fresh the fish are. You’re not going to get fresher fish unless you catch it yourself, go down to the coast to get some right off the docks, or shop at one of the few places with fish tanks with a few live species to choose from. There’s much more variety from Total Catch and there's never any fishy smell.

I have also really gotten into this because it appeals to my interest in exploring new and different tastes. Beats me why some of these fish aren’t more popular. Yes, yes, yes, so far I've stuck to fish that actually look like fish! - they get some pretty exotic species in from time to time but mostly they've been gone by the time I get there.

Here’s more on Total Catch from Robb Walsh, the Chronicle, and even a report from Dallas. And don't miss the Professor Fish Heads blog, linked to on the Total Catch blog, for more in depth information about some of the species including a recent article on fish offal.

Now I’m planning on having fish for Christmas, but it’ll be Gravad Lax and Heering from IKEA and possibly a poached salmon not from Total Catch - I’m having my own Julbord celebration. But looking beyond Christmas I know what one of my New Year’s Resolutions will be, and it’s going to be easy to keep - Eat More (Locally Caught) Fish.

See an update on Total Catch Market here.


FoodLion said...

Happy to find this post on Total Catch market. I'm a frequent customer as well. My wife cringes at the thought of what PJ is going to send me home with next. She wouldn't eat my Striped Mullet innards sauce piquant, but jeez it was tasty.

Bruce said...

I've missed my fix these last 2 weeks; I hope they have a good haul this week.