There is a charming fish shop in downtown Reykjavik that my mother likes to shop at when she stays in Iceland. After having spent the day working at the gallery, we decided to check to see what they had. They have a small selection of fish but all of it is at its peak of freshness. We decided on cod cheeks, I was very curious after seeing Liza’s Food Curated video on “New Nordic Cuisine”. Icelandic fish is a revelation because it is so fresh; if you are not “a fish person” in all likelihood you have not had truly fresh fish. Cod and haddock are the primary fish fished here in Iceland, and with the economy in the state it is, fishing has become its saving grace. Many sustainability organizations rank both these fishes as “do not eat,” I have sat in many on Icelandic lectures on the subject and they give a decidedly different take on the issue. This blog entry on tree huger certainly captures how Icelanders’ view their fishing industry. Icelanders are protective of their fishing rights (one of the main reasons they have never joined the EU) and claim to do it sustainability— not that one should ever trust industry talking points— but when I am visiting I do eat north Atlantic haddock and sometimes sole and halibut—it is a cultural habit. Eating mindfully is a learning process—and just because one has always done something doesn’t mean we can’t learn to do better. So this is my way of saying, I want to learn more about the issue.
With all this said, the cod cheeks were marvelous, a bit textural like sea scallops and so flavorful. Icelanders, as a rule don’t eat cod themselves because it is an expensive fish that they export; instead, they eat the oil, liver and the “odd bits.” Here, I sautéed them in a LOT of Icelandic butter, treating them a bit like I would a scallop. So good!
*Update: The Monterrey Bay Aquarium upgraded Icelandic cod to GOOD ALTERNATIVE last summer. This is great news! Seems like the Icelandic fish industry is working with the Monterrey Bay Aquarium to make their fisheries more sustainable.