The Moment of Truth — February 10, 2001

Delicious Skatewing Cakes You Can Make!

Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen and this is the Moment of Truth, the one inhabitable zone for the human spirit in the vast wasteland of commercial and corporate-sponsered electromagnetic signals.

Give me a fish, I eat for a day. Teach me to fish, I eat for a lifetime. Teach me a really good fish recipe, and I eat really well. Teach me mejeffdorchen’s recipe for skatewing cakes, and I just might die and go to heaven. You take a one-and-a-half pound skatewing, fresh and without the skin. Do not buy skatewing with the skin on! It is impossible to get off. Teach me to skin a skatewing, and I will weep tears of frustration and maybe even cut my finger. Teach someone else to skin a skatewing and pay him or her to do it and I will then buy your skatewing and use it in mejeffdorchen’s delightful skatewing cake recipe. Pay him or her a decent wage to do it and the whole transaction just might be one of the nicer things in life, depending on your point of view about such things as eating animals, and depending on the environmental state of the skate fishery, and the overall skate population.

Look for fresh, pink to white flesh on your skatewing. Avoid bruised-looking specimens. And definitely pass it up altogether if it smells like ammonia. Skates, like sharks, pee through their skin. I don’t exactly know why this makes them smell like ammonia only when they start to spoil, but that’s the fact.

Anyway, you’ve been taught how to buy skatewing and you’ve bought it and it’s a one-and-a-half pound skatewing, fresh and without the skin, and you’re at home now – if you’re homeless, this recipe may not be for you. But if you can get some water boiling in a big skillet long enough to poach the skatewing, then I assure you that grilling it over an open garbage can fire can result in an equally delicious meal. It helps if you know how to make beurre noir to drizzle over the top. Try it on a bed of baby greens or a mixture of arugula and boston lettuce. Teach me to make beurre noir and I can turn a sandwich into a banquet.

Anyway, you’ve been taught how to buy skatewing and you’ve bought it and it’s a one-and-a-half pound skatewing, fresh and without the skin, and you’ve waded through the red tape of section 8 housing or in some other way secured yourself a domicile that includes a kitchen with a stove and utensils of various kinds. So you poach your skatewing till its meat at the thickest part can be easily lifted off the cartilage, and you lift the meat off and put it in a bowl. Turn the skatewing over and lift the meat off the other side and put it in the bowl, too. Throw away the remaining cartilage, or, ideally, help start a program in your neighborhood that takes old skatewing cartilage and turns it into contact lenses for the poor. Let the meat cool in the fridge, or even just a cool dark corner under a small pile of damp rags.

Mince the white and green parts of a bunch of scallions until you have half a cup. Beat two eggs in a small bowl. Add both to the cooled skate meat, assuming troops haven’t destroyed your neighborhood, burnt down your house, and stolen your skate meat while it was cooling. Mush it all together with a fork. Add two teaspoons of garlic powder, one-and-a-half tablespoons of matzo meal, salt and pepper to taste. Add a small amount of hot chili if you want to and have the means. Mix all together. Let the mixture set for at least 30 minutes.

Form the mixture into patties. If they don’t hold together well enough, add more matzo meal as a binder. Dust the bottom and top of each patty with matzo meal. Heat up some peanut or canola oil in a skillet or on any flat, clean piece of metal that you are sure is not coated with anything that may become toxic when heated. Do not use skillets or other cooking utensils made of depleted uranium! Although the jury is still out on the health effects of these, the fact is they are heavy, expensive, and so difficult to clean that they’re really not worth bothering with.

Fry each skatewing cake until it is light brown with very dark brown mottling on each side. Serve hot or cold with sour cream, yogurt, creme fraiche, hollandaise sauce, or buerre noir. They’re delicious served on a bed of baby greens or a mixture of arugula and boston lettuce. Any steamed or boiled tuber will be wonderful as a side dish. Serve with chilled, medium-bodied white wine, or at least with water that has been treated or boiled for at least an hour to kill bacteria and strained through cheesecloth. If you’re lucky enough to own a filter pump with a one-micron filter or finer, that can be used as well. Pregnant or nursing women, children, and adults should really strive to escape impoverished conditions to avoid many health problems associated with pollution, war, unsafe drinking water, homelessness, and arbitrary confinement and torture by state or paramilitary agencies.

Still, if you’ve somehow managed to escape the deadly void of space or the plasmafying interior of a star or the crushing singularity of a black hole; if you’ve escaped the molten core of the earth or being buried alive or frozen in the arctic or antarctic or drowned in the ocean or parched in the desert or massacred or starved; if you’ve somehow – in a universe the vast majority of which is uninhabitably hostile to human life – come to inhabit one of the habitable regions in this thin skin we call the biosphere, this tiny, frail bubble of existableness in the infinite cosmic waste of indifferent deadliness, and you have access to a good fish market, I urge you to try your hand at making these delightful treats. They’re cheaper and easier to make than crab cakes, and way easier than tarantula cakes, and they taste as good or better than either one!

The important lesson I, mejeffdorchen, want to leave you with is this: don’t be intimidated into thinking you can’t create seafood delicacies as fine as those served in the finest restaurants! I’m mejeffdorchen and this has been the Moment of Truth.