Seasonal Norwegian fish a short-term treat

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and author of “The Slim Down South Cookbook.” Email her at carolyn@carolynoneil.com.

There’s more than one fish in the sea, as the saying goes.

Relatively new to the U.S. seafood scene is a premium white-fleshed fish called skrei, a wild-caught Norwegian artic cod available only from January through April.

The name skrei (pronounced “sk-ray”) comes from the old Norse language for “the wanderer,” because the fish is caught in cold winter months when it’s swimming to spawning grounds in northern Norway.

“They swim against the current, so they have more muscle and are very lean and have a delicate clean taste,” Norwegian chef Espen Larsen said. “The meat has more body than other cod.”

Larsen, who owns the Culinary Academy of Oslo, visited Atlanta recently to teach the culinary and service staff at Legal Sea Foods how to best prepare skrei and describe the fish to guests. Skrei is a featured fish on March menus at Legal Sea Foods.

One of the menu items sampled was pan-roasted skrei with fingerling potatoes, Brussels sprouts, olives and Meyer lemon.

“You don’t want to overpower the delicate flavor of the fish,” sous chef Alexander Clyatt said.

“The texture is awesome. Customers always ask about the flavor and texture of a fish and whether it’s wild or farm-raised,” server Lance Brady said. “The more information, the better.”

The fish is so revered in Norway that every part is utilized; the tongue is a delicacy.

“It’s only available for a short time seasonally,” Larsen said. “For me, it’s like looking forward to other seasonal foods like spring asparagus.”

Premium prices for this short-term treat mean strict protection. “There are fish police in Norway who make sure regular coastal cod is not being mislabeled as skrei,” Larsen said.

The dish on fish

Whether you’re discovering your first bites of skrei, or enjoying a shrimp cocktail or a fish taco, adding more fish and shellfish to your diet is a healthy habit.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends we eat two to three servings a week. A serving is considered 3 to 4 ounces.

“The guidelines tell us we’re eating plenty of protein foods in the U.S., but we should shift the types of protein to include more fish,” said registered dietitian Jennifer McGuire of the Marine Fisheries Institute.

If you like the more affordable price of frozen fish and shellfish, compared with fresh, McGuire reassured it’s a healthy and tasty choice.

“It’s often even fresher than fresh, because it’s flash-frozen right away on the boat.”