Chef Hopes To Make Carp A Popular Dish
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has one approach to the carp conundrum: If you can't beat them, eat them. Next week, the state is in fact launching a campaign celebrating the gastro potential of the carp and giving it a new name, the silver fin. But how do you eat them?
Well, that's where our next guest comes in handy. Chef Philippe Parola is working with the state to help people figure out how to cook the carp. And he joins us from Baton Rouge. Chef Parola, what does carp taste like? How would you describe it?
Mr. PHILIPPE PAROLA (Chef): Well, number one, carp is kind of misleading on that name because the carp that we know in Louisiana, the common carp, they are bottom feeder, and they taste good, but not as good as the silver carp, which we tried to rename it as a silver fin.
BLOCK: The silver fin, yeah.
Mr. PAROLA: Absolutely. The meat texture of it is it's a cross between scallops and crab meat. That's how good it is.
BLOCK: Now, the bones, though, I think are a problem. These are big fish with lots of bones. What do you about that?
Mr. PAROLA: But it - absolutely, it's a lot of bones. And the first thing first is about bleeding the fish. That fish has to be bled. It helps to get the meat really white. And secondly, on the bone, I found that if you steam the fish, you can remove the bones very easily. And then you take the end product of the steamed meat and do all kind of different things such as fish cake, and fish spread, and soups and so on. I mean, you know, we're known in Louisiana for good cooking, and a gumbo pot, you know, you can put literally almost anything there and it will taste good.
BLOCK: And these are big fish. So you're getting a big fillet out of this fish, I would guess.
Mr. PAROLA: Well, actually, believe it or not, this is one of the very few fish, the bigger it gets, the better it is, because the bones are bigger, you can remove them, but the fish quality of it stays the same.
BLOCK: I understand that you have had carp land in your boat. Is that right? They jump out of the water and you've had them land right in there?
Mr. PAROLA: Absolutely. Yeah. Well, actually, all this started last August. I was doing a little work with Jeff Corwin from the Animal Planet, and he had a, you know, cooking show on the Food Network called "Extreme Cuisine," and he asked me to get an exotic fish out of Louisiana. So we went and got an alligator gar. And while I was riding a boat to catch an alligator gar, literally 40 minutes from New Orleans, these two giant carp just jumped in my boat and landed on my feet. Then I took this fish back to the restaurant, try them out.
BLOCK: So you're on this campaign. This is your mission, how to turn this nuisance fish into a delicacy.
Mr. PAROLA: Yeah, absolutely. It is an invasive species, but it's domestic now. We have it.
BLOCK: And if I were to come to you today, Chef Parola, come into your kitchen and say, okay, convince me about this carp, this silver fin, make me something amazing, what would you cook for me? What would you serve?
Mr. PAROLA: All right, well, I will tell you what: How long will it take to fry a fish nugget - three minutes?
NORRIS: I guess.
Mr. PAROLA: That's how long it will take to convince you. As soon as you're going to break that piece of fried fish, just fry it, that's it. And don't have to make a fancy sauce or anything else, it's that good. You don't have to cover it up with anything. You'll break it up, you'll taste it and just, wow.
BLOCK: Chef Parola, thanks for talking with us.
Mr. PAROLA: No problem, thank you and bon appetit.
BLOCK: Chef Philippe Parola, he's helping Louisiana create a demand to eat the invasive Asian carp, otherwise known as the silver fin.
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