I generally shy away from fish that is on sale at any fishmonger. The only reason I can think of for reducing the price of something is because you want to get rid of it. And there are only two reasons you are trying to get rid of something. You have more than you want of it or there is something wrong with it.
But, you know, I was at Whole Foods. I figured that whatever I was purchasing couldn’t be that bad. So, with that rationalization trumping my better judgement, I purchased two pounds of skate. Skates are bottom dwelling Chondrichthyes, similar to Rays, like a Sting Ray, Manta Ray or Sugar Ray (Well, at least the bottom dwelling part). Which you don’t really think of as delicious. But it can be.
My issue with Skate is that it is alway prepared the same way. Brown butter, capers and a squeeze of lemon. Awesome the first time, horrifically boring the umpteenth time. However, I had an idea in my head (ideas that I have in my pancreas I don’t usually act on) that I had to try. I’ve been wanting to do it forever. And because I am a fucking asshole, I’m not going to tell you what it is.
Instead, we are going to talk about shark pee.
Sharks convert ammonia into urea via the ornithine cycle. That pretty similar to us. But, sharks don’t have bladders or pee holes. Since urea is not as toxic as ammonia, they can store it in their blood. Then they excrete it through their flesh via osmosis.
That’s great when they are alive. When they die, the urea in their blood starts to deteriorate back into ammonia. Consider it the Chondrichthyes’ Revenge on humanity.
Sharks are in the same family as Skates. Yup, I ate pee. Not only that, I served pee-ridden skatemeat to my girlfriend.
How is this prevented
The Internet didn’t give me any great answers. The likely theories are:
- Evisceration immediately after being caught
- Iced immediately after being caught
- Brined immediately after being caught
How is this fixed
- Discard. Simple. Easy. This is probably the smart thing to do. There are other reasons why fish can smell like ammonia, none of them good reasons.
- Neutralize. Ammonia is a base. Combine with an acid and they will neutralize each other. Soak in an acidulated water. That means lemon or vinegar combined in water.
What Did We Learn?
- I ate pee.
- You don’t have to.
- Don’t Buy Fish On Sale.