JonfromTJs Visits Total Catch Market in Houston

Part of the Total Catch.(photo by Jon Alexis.)

Jon Alexis, know on every blog in the United States of America as jonfromtjs, handles the marketing for TJ’s Seafood Market, the successful fish market in Preston Forest. He is a conscientious student of seafood. Recently he learned about Total Catch Market, a project (and blog) run by PJ Stoops and Billy Tellez of Louisiana Foods. Their niche is selling by-catch fish, the innocent fishes caught by fishermen actually fishing for a higher profile fish. JonfromTJs was so moved when he heard about these guys, he jumped in his car and drove to Houston.  He sends a brief story about his experience along with cell phone pictures. I am going to run it below. Grammar police be warned: the copy is unedited only because I am low on time at the moment. Take it away jonfromtjs:

Fact – Global demand for seafood is increasing exponentially.

Fact – To meet this demand, we are overfishing our oceans.

Fact – When targeting a species, fishermen throw back any other species they weren’t intending to catch.

Fact – The majority of these fish die when thrown back into the water.

Conclusion – why are we not better utilizing Gulf BY-CATCH?

PJ Stoops and Billy Tellez came to this conclusion a while ago. Now every weekend in Houston, they set up a pop-up market to sell absurdly-fresh Gulf by catch. By catch is any fish caught by the fisherman besides what species they are intending to catch.

Most of these fish are delicious – some are even considered delicacies in other waters.

I traveled to Houston last weekend to learn more about Gulf by catch and some unique species of fish.

After spending some time with Billy Friday afternoon (PJ has gotten tons of media recognition lately for his seemingly infinite seafood knowledge, but Billy deserves a lot of credit as well), I had dinner at Reef restaurant.  Chef Bryan Caswell is another proponent of using everything the Gulf has to offer. Kinilaw Ceviche with Blue Crab, Orange, Coco-Lime Broth was light and fresh.   Roasted Grouper with Corn Pudding, Salsa Cruda, Grilled Peach had a Southern warmth…Houston meets Charleston.

My favorite dish was Grilled Cobia, Broccolini, Orange Mustard, Jalapeno Relish. Cobia is a farm-raised fish that we don’t see too often in Dallas.  Buttery flavor of Mahi Mahi with the firm texture of Swordfish – you can cube it like you can beef.  If you like Ivory Salmon, you’ll love Cobia.

Saturday morning at 8:30am, I arrived at the Total Catch market and in-the-know Houstonians were already lined up for the 9am start time.

The selection is different every week depending on what the fishermen caught. The catch is posted the Friday prior on their blog. Last week’s catch included mangrove snapper, barrelfish, beardfish, triggerfish, blackfin tuna, rock hind, almaco jack, longtail bass, scorpionfish, and more.

So what does this fish taste like?

Barrelfish is very similar to Grouper and a great fish for any recipe requiring a mild-medium flavored flaky white fish.

Beardfish is extremely rare – PJ and Billy had only seen it a handful of times in their years working the Gulf. Beardfish is a sweet whitefish with a very small flake – it almost tastes like crabmeat as it breaks apart in your mouth.

Triggerfish is sweet and firm. Similar to Pompano. My favorite fish of the catch.

Utilizing these fish is not just a marketing gimmick or a “green” ploy.  Sustainability aside- these are delicious, healthy fish we are throwing back most likely to die!

Houston and Austin are already seeing these fish and others available in their cities. TJ’s will be carrying a selection of Gulf By Catch on the weekends and chefs and restaurateurs around the city have already expressed interest.