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The “It” Fish

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Andrew Carmellini grills it at A Voce. Michael Psilakis serves it raw as one of his signature crudi at Dona. And Eric Ripert, introduced to it two years ago, sears it with herbes de Provence and poaches it in extra-virgin olive oil at Le Bernardin. Escolar, the deep-sea, warm-water fish with a checkered past, is back in the spotlight—if it ever truly went away. First available hereabouts in the eighties, the fish—also called white tuna at sushi bars, or “tuna bianco” at the Italian-inspired A Voce—caught on in the nineties, when chefs became enamored of a consistency Psilakis calls “lush, soft, and fatty.” Gramercy Tavern chef John Schaefer, who’s carried it off and on, praises its versatility. “It’s low in sinew and hard to overcook.”

By most measures, it’s a dream fish—“like toro, but cheaper,” says Ripert. But in places like Hawaii, where it’s a by-catch of long-line tuna fishing, it’s known colloquially as the Ex-Lax fish, thanks to its high content of indigestible wax esters (remember olestra?). In the Canary Islands, food writer Harold McGee has noted, it’s considered a folk medicine.

Not everyone experiences that side effect, and the smaller the portion, the less likelihood there is. But maybe in this age of avian flu, mad cow, and fad diets, a little indigestible fish fat is practically a selling point.


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