You ‘cod’ do better for Lent

When you’re tired of fried fish, local chefs have other meatless options

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 22, 2017

 Avant-garde seafood options, like Streetside Seafood’s octopus and pan-seared scallops paired with house-made gazpacho and Chinese forbidden rice, are a great way to stay on track during Lent without getting bored, according to Chef Jonathan Rickloff.

Avant-garde seafood options, like Streetside Seafood’s octopus and pan-seared scallops paired with house-made gazpacho and Chinese forbidden rice, are a great way to stay on track during Lent without getting bored, according to Chef Jonathan Rickloff.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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METRO DETROIT — The first Friday of the Lenten season is always a fun excuse to go out and share some greasy fried fish with friends.

The second Friday in Lent is usually the same.

By the third Friday in Lent, many Christians get queasy at the mere sight of battered fish and french fries.

There’s got to be a better way to abstain from meat on Fridays without resorting to that heavy fish fry week after week. And plenty of chefs around metro Detroit are more than willing to accept the challenge to prepare new, out-of-the-Styrofoam-box entrees.

Chef Marie Maconochie, owner of the Sprout House in Grosse Pointe Park, said she always gets a few extra customers this time of year, and she’s happy to guide novices into the wide world of vegetarian eating.

“We sell a lot of soup during Lent. Right now my arm feels like it’s going to fall off from stirring all the soups,” Maconochie said with a laugh. “A lot of people do the lentil soups, the lima bean with artichoke, the vegan chili that’s super popular, and the split pea with kale.”

Many new patrons wander into the Sprout House looking for a meatless lunch option for Lent and expect to have a less-than-satisfying meal. But less protein doesn’t have to mean less flavor, she said.

“I think a lot of people are surprised to see that it’s just not as hard to eat vegetarian as they think. Some places you go, I get it, they don’t make it taste good. It has no flavor. But our stuff really has flavor. And you don’t need the protein to fill you up; fiber is more important for that.”

If you’re a traditionalist and you don’t want to skip the sea fare, there’s no shortage of options around metro Detroit. In downtown Birmingham, Streetside Seafood is cooking up its surf-themed menu, plus a variety of specials brought in fresh daily.

“We have four companies we order from, and we choose what looks good and what’s freshest. Then we design the dish based on the piece of fish we get,” said sous chef Jonathan Rickloff. 

Unlike a restaurant with a regional limitation — like, for instance, an Italian restaurant — Streetside Seafood can dabble in a range of flavors to complement the star of the dish, he said.

“If we get in a piece of snapper, I can do something Caribbean, or if a piece of fish comes in that would lend itself better to maybe a Korean flavor, I can do that,” he said.

Right now we’re still in the midst of snow crab season, Rickloff said, so guests are eager to get a taste of that delicacy while there’s still time. And then, just as Lent is wrapping up in April, Streetside Seafood will be bringing back one of its customer favorites: a cucumber and crab cold soup, best enjoyed outside on the restaurant’s patio. 

But if going out to eat isn’t in your budget at the moment, Rickloff said there’s no reason you can’t enjoy an elegant, reasonably priced seafood meal at home.

“I’ll go to the market with maybe $40. You shouldn’t need more than $40, because it’s really easy to get carried away,” he explained. “Then just ask the butcher what’s good, how to prepare it and what it pairs with. Believe me, he’ll know. And don’t be afraid to ask for a smaller portion of something. Say, for instance, you only want 4 ounces of a piece of fish or three scallops instead of six. That’s all you’ll need, and there’s no reason for the rest to go to waste.”

The Sprout House is located at 15233 Kercheval Ave. in Grosse Pointe Park. Call (313) 331-3200 for more information.

Streetside Seafood is located at 273 Pierce St. in downtown Birmingham. Call (248) 645-9123 for more information.

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