Bait to Plate

Kev Collins

Well known Restauranter and co-owner of Fish D'vine & The Rum Bar in Airlie Beach. When Kev's not working he's out fishing in the amazing food bowl of the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park or in his tinnie in the estuaries crabbing! His blog imparts wisdom, tales and info on all things fishing and food.

Lamb Shanks of the sea

What years ago was simply “crab bait” have become an “insiders” special as we have learnt from different food cultures more and more about the fish we take for granted. A wonderful “trend” is treating every bit of the fish as precious. Using the frames for stocks, soups and chowders, the wonderful Polynesian custom where the tribal chief is gifted the must succulent cut of a whole baked fish…the cheek, and learning that just like a lamb shank (which we used to feed to the dog years ago), the old adage about the sweetest meat being nearest the bone, we have discovered “Fish Wings”. If these ever make it to the menu (i.e. the staff don’t get them first) I describe them to guests as ‘The Lamb Shanks of the Sea”. Soft, sticky, incredibly juicy meat that falls from the one big flat “wing bone” like an overcooked lamb shank. Best off larger fish like barramundi, Red Emperor or large nannygai or Coral trout they are just amazing.

I recently hosted a long lunch for friends at my place and was blessed in the days leading up to get my hands on some really big Trout and a ‘Reddy”, suffice to say the wings were "quarantined", and became the basis of a great Sunday arvo balcony lunch. Way too much wine, too much food and too many lies but I put some real effort into making the wings the star of the show for the sceptics coming to lunch. Needless to say, never again will fish frames make it to the crab pots in those households without a bit of” tax collection” first.

The pictures tell the story but scale well, rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. Char grill on a hot BBQ for a few minutes and then transfer to a baking dish. Lace with paper thin lemon slices, some thyme, salt, pepper and a splash more olive oil. At this stage, just as I closed the BBQ lid I threw a large handful of wood chips over the char grill (not sure the neighbours upstairs shared my enthusiasm) and cooked under the “lid” for 15 minutes. This added a beautiful Smokey wood fired flavour to the soft juicy fish, which my lunch guests just devoured with a salad of rocket, pear, shaved parmesan and toasted pecans with a little blue cheese and olive oil dressing.

The attached pictures just about capture the whole process and, if you must, give the screen a little lick…when no one is watching, you can taste them!