Hank Shaw counted them up: Over a lifetime of cooking, and most particularly for the research and writing of Hook, Line, and Supper, the latest in his phenomenally successful line of wild foods cookbooks, Shaw sampled close to five hundred kinds of fish and seafood.
“And I swear,” he says, “I had exactly one that I will not eat again: Menhaden. Every other fish I have been able to make, at the least, something worth eating. But those things are just bait. Never again.”
Shaw’s wide-ranging seafood palate will be no surprise to fans who flock to his James Beard Award–winning website, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, and pore through his four previous wild game cookbooks—Hunt, Gather, Cook; Duck, Duck, Goose; Buck, Buck, Moose; and Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail—like some sort of post-modern gastronomic Encyclopedia Britannica. I’ve long been a fan, too, and credit Shaw for turning many of my game cooking approaches inside-out for the better.
But when it came to fins instead of feathers and hide, Shaw was a little hung up, just like many of his readers.
“People ask me all the time,” he says, “do you have a recipe for cobia? Or red snapper? Or blackfin tuna?” The species-specific questions were confining. “I had to really think about how to do something that would be useful for readers in the Carolinas and Iowa and Alaska and Mexico.”
The result is a cookbook organized around cooking style rather than specific ingredient. Along with guides to seafood prep and handling, chapters include Broiling and Baking, Poaching, Grillin’ and Chillin’, and the Art of Frying Fish. Other chapters cover seafood fritters, seafood balls, soups, stews, stocks, and sandwiches. Shaw draws on a global array of techniques—see Vietnamese Claypot Catfish and Snapper Veracruz—and they’re all written in his signature approach that pairs the step-by-step with the why and the where, sprinkling history, culture, and personal experience throughout the mix.
“We flipped the script,” he explains. “As I write, assume you can use any fish you’ve got with any recipe unless I tell you otherwise. That approach frees the mind, and it freed me up structurally.”
Shaw hails from New Jersey and lives in Sacramento, California, but he has a deep affinity for the South. Mexican cuisine is a passion, and he’s spent plenty of time rocking on a boat in the Gulf, fishing on both coasts of Florida, stalking trout and suckers in the Ozarks, and reveling in a region that seems to have a love affair with fins rivaled by few others. “The South is all over this book,” he says. “You folks have awesome seafood, and it’s as simple as that.”
Below, check out his recipe for pickled shrimp. It’s a classic Hank Shaw twist, approaching a favorite dish in a way that reimagines the familiar.
Hook, Line, and Supper: New Techniques and Master Recipes for Everything Caught in Lakes, Rivers and Streams, and at Sea is out now and available at Shaw’s website.
Follow T. Edward Nickens on Instagram @enickens.