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What's in season: Meat and fish special


<i>Fish mongers at Lobster Place recommend escolar and wild striped bass. (Ben Muessig)</i>

Winter can be a tough time for those who like cooking with seasonal ingredients. Until the weather warms, there's not much variety when it comes to locally grown produce, so why not shape your meals around foods that are just as good — if not better — the winter?

Unlike fruits and vegetables, most meat and fish doesn’t go out of season, and some are actually better at this time of year.

For the most part, meats aren't seasonal. The varieties available at city butcher shops don't change much throughout the year — but certain cuts and methods of preparation are better at certain times, according to Benny
Pizzuco of the Florence Meat Market in the West Village. And winter is the time for roasts.

"You really don't want to have your oven on for four hours in the summer," said Pizzuco, whose Jones Street shop carries pre-seasoned pork roasts ($4.49 - $5.59 per pound), lamb roasts ($5.49 per pound), and veal roasts ($12.49 per pound). "When the weather's cold, it's good to eat something hearty."

Cooking methods:
There are two schools of thought when it comes to cooking roasts. Some chefs say it's best to cook them at a moderate temperature the whole time, while others say it's best to cook them first at a high temperature to sear the
outside, then reduce the heat to keep the middle from getting overcooked.

It's really a matter of personal preference, but either way it's helpful to have a meat thermometer on hand. If you like your meat medium, take out veal roasts at or before 140 degrees, lamb roasts at or before 145 degrees, or pork roasts at or before 150 degrees (depending on their size, roasts will rise in temperature several degrees after you take them out of the oven).

Wild striped bass used to be an easy catch off the East Coast until overfishing depleted the population and the species neared extinction. In recent years, stringent regulations and sustainable fishing practices have allowed the meaty fish to become more prevalent, though it remains a seasonal item, according to Bibo Gurung, manager of the Lobster Place Seafood Market in the West Village.

"The wild striped bass is very popular at this time of year. It's rich, and easy to serve," said Gurung, whose Bleecker Street shop sells the fish for $18.95 per pound. Larger and more flavorful than its farmed cousin the
striped bass, this fresh catch spawns in fresh water and lives in salt water. Occasionally classified as striper, linesider or rockfish, wild striped bass is high in protein and tastes great braised, poached, or grilled. Try serving the fish with a simple vegetable saute or a winter
salad with sliced apple.

Escolar, a hard-to-find fish sometimes called "white
tuna,” is also in season. Fans describe it as having an unbelievably rich, buttery flavor and a texture that's silky or velvety. Try grilling it and letting the flavor stand out, serving it with parsley and lemon, or even using it in curries. Be sure to only purchase escolar from reputable fish mongers and keep portion sizes small, because the oils that make the fish so tasty have reportedly caused digestive problems for some diners. Fresh escolar costs about 12.95 per pound at the Lobster Place.


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