The Catch: Sea-to-Table Recipes, Stories & Secrets
Reviewed by Anna Toon, Fri., Dec. 6, 2013
by Ben Sargent with Peter Kaminsky
Clarkson Potter, 256 pp., $30
Don't be fooled by the cover of Ben Sargent's debut cookbook. Boy-next-door good looks and charm be damned, "he'll stick a fuckin' four pound lobstah on your fuckin' ballsack." While most men cling to their comic book alter egos of childhood past, Sargent's irreverent Dr. Klaw enjoyed an illustrious and lucrative run as the alleged lobster pusherman and mastermind behind the Underground Lobster Pound. Red jumpsuit, golden lobster claw chain looped around his thick neck, Dr. Klaw's basement operation sold highly illegal lobster rolls to Brooklynites. Not a perfect disguise, Dr. Klaw was soon forced into an early retirement by the health department. However, Sargent's latest endeavor proves more legit. A collaboration with Peter Kaminsky, former Outdoors columnist for The New York Times whose most recent books include Bacon Nation and Culinary Intelligence, The Catch: Sea-to-Table Recipes, Stories & Secrets navigates Sargent's experiences as a child, well-seasoned traveler, fisherman, and chef.
The book is organized by type of seafood with an emphasis on sustainability and the conservation of our waterways. Readers will learn to stuff, grill, sauté, fry, roast, smoke, bake, and fillet seafood ranging from scallops to sea urchin. According to Sargent, if you can chop and heat, you can successfully prepare his recipes. Each recipe – from Sargent's grandfather's clam chowder (don't you dare omit the heavy cream) to the catfish sandwich with dill remoulade and sliced jalapeños – tells a story, and is supported by the beautiful photography of Gabriela Herman. Despite the inclusion of a somewhat cringe-inducing picture of Sargent lying on the beach eating grouper from a banana leaf, the cookbook is the equivalent of hands warming on a bowl of spicy squid stew – wholly comforting and just right.