Cooking Invasive Seafood

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 Reinhard Dirscherl / Getty Images

So you're trying to feel better about the fish you eat? Of course, one option is to focus on eating sustainable, farm-raised fish or sustainably caught wild fish like salmon that you can find at your nearest fish market or Whole Foods. Guides on what's good in your area can be found on Oceana. However, a lot of those options are things you've likely eaten before — halibut, tilapia, all manner of shellfish. It can get boring! But if you’re looking to experiment while still being environmentally conscious, there's another option — overpopulous and invasive species. In their recent list of "Fish You Can Eat With A Clean Conscience," Grub Street listed a few local and invasive species that can be found in plentiful supply. Not only does eating them help the environment, but it’s a great excuse to try out something other than your standard salmon, tuna, or cod. 


For instance, if you live in the west Atlantic or Caribbean area, you may want to give lionfish a try. This invasive species, which preys on other juvenile and adult fish populations, has a "pearly white, sweet, mild, and tender filet," according to Chef Michael Ledwith, whose eponymous Islamadora, FL restaurant began serving lionfish six years ago. At first they had a hard time convincing diners to give it a try, but now he says, "We can’t get enough of the fish. We run out nightly."

Lionfish can be fried, grilled, or sauteed, and its delicate flavor goes well with "a simple splash of citrus, olive oil, and a sprinkling of fresh herbs." Ledwith serves their fish whole fried with a mango sauce. But be careful — lionfish have poisonous dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins, and their spines are really sharp. Best to get your fishmonger to trim it for you if you’re not an expert.

Another option for an invasive species, if you're into shellfish, is the periwinkle, which can be found up and down the East Coast. Though they’re native to New England, many were shipped to London and became popular at British seaside resorts, served "with vinegar and a few grains of sand blown in, a cup of hot tea with milk and sugar on standby," according to Eat the Invaders. But the gist is that a lot of these species aren’t so different from a lot of fish you're probably used to, and if you’re in the right area, gives you an excuse to go fishing yourself. Not that you needed an excuse.