Wednesday, 24 August 2016

RAY'S BREAM - JAPUTA

Palometa negra

I first came across this fish in Carrefour in Elche, looking as if made of steel. It had a bream like appearance but I had no idea what it was and had to consult various books to find out.



I learned that its English name is Ray's bream (although it is not a member of the sea bream family) and is named after the 17th century English naturalist John Ray, but I have never seen it in England. I had also seen a fish in Spain called Palometa blanca which is Spanish for Pompano (palomino or palomète in French).

In Europe, Palometa blanca or pompano is sometimes called Asian or Mediterrranean pomfret.  I haven’t tried it but I have read that the Mediterranean variety are not worth eating so I will probably not bother. To add to confusion, Ray's bream, Palometa negra,  is known as pomfret in N America.

In some parts of Spain, Palometa negra may be known by its Catalan name, Castanyola and similarly castagna in Italy and castagnole In France, where it is sometimes called brème, but in south eastern Spain it is usually sold as Japuta.  Once seen you cannot fail to recognise its distinctive steel-like appearance. 

In August 2015 they had some in Eroski in Santa Pola on offer at 4.95€ per kilo and as my son, Damien and family were staying with me I decided to give it a try.  My Spanish is none too good and I thought the fishmonger was asking if I wanted it skinned.  I said no, just cleaned, which normally includes scaling, so I was surprised when I got home to find that it had not been scaled.  A subsequent effort by Damien and myself, both with scaling tools and the chef's knife proved difficult and only partially successful.  The next time I bought it, in the summer of 2016, I specifically asked for it to be scaled - it was a Herculean task and not very well accomplished and required further effort on my part when I got it into the kitchen.  The scales are as tough as steel and are all strongly linked.

I didn't know anyone who had tried Ray's bream so I sought some advice on Facebook.  I am grateful to Steve Whitelegg for his reply
   
May 26 at 10:38pm

The post by 'Nepptune', about halfway down this fishing site thread, might be helpful even if you are not intending to cook it on a barbecue http://www.fishing.net.nz/forum/rays-bream_topic37542.html

Nepptune confirmed the impenetrable nature of the steely scales

Nepptune View Drop Down

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Joined: 29 Nov 2007
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We get a ton of those out here off Cape Town too, in the canyons and YFT grounds.... big commercial market for them and marketed as "Angelfish" in Fishmarkets and Restaurants....
Damn good eating.... skin is tough as nails, but acts almost like tin foil on the BBQ.... just lay a fillet skin down on the Barbie, spices and such on the top, and cook with the cover over the BBQ..... skin keeps the whole bunch together, and peels off easy once done...
Alan  Davidson in Tio Pepe says "if you see it on the menu, opt for it".( The Tio Pepe Guide to the SEAFOOD of SPAIN and PORTUGAL
Alan Davidson 2002 www.santanabooks.com
ISBN 84-89954-21-6

Recipe books suggest poaching or roasting whole or frying fillets.  I have cooked it whole on two occasions poaching (2015) and roasting (2016) and have published the two methods on this blog.

John Austin
August 2016






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