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Striped bass and other local favorites

If you’re in the market for some uber local seafood get stripped bass now!
“Fisherman bring them right in the backdoor,” said Dennis Dudley at Mullaney’s Harborside Fish Market in downtown Scituate.
The state’s commercial striped bass fishing season opened on July 12 this year and will close when its quota has been reached. That’s likely to be sometime within the next month. (from 7/29)
“Each week we have to report every fish we buy to the National Marine Fisheries,” said Joe Norton, who bought Mullaney’s in 2007 after working for its previous owner, Chris Mullaney, for 20 years.
“We take the temperature of the fish – it must be below 40 degrees, and we weigh and measure it,” said Norton.
Most of the stripped bass Norton gets are line caught.
The next most local seafood at Mullaney’s that comes directly from Scituate fisherman are its lobsters.
“We have about 10 to 15 regular guys who bring lobster in,” said Dudley. “We take whatever they have.”
Sometimes Norton buys whole cod and haddock and the rare halibut from Scituate fisherman, butchering them in the shop.
And Mullaney’s regularly gets oysters from Duxbury, and littlenecks and countnecks (small and smaller cohogs), and mussels from the Cape.
Procuring the thousands of pounds of seafood Norton sells at his two retail stores (there’s a second shop in Cohasset on 3A) and delivers to restaurants every day is a complicated catch-as-catch-can operation.
The oysters get dropped off at the Scituate store by the oyster diggers and the mussels and clams make their way to Mullaney’s when one of its trucks rendezvous with a Cape shellfish farmer somewhere along his delivery route.
But now here’s the funny thing: when you buy cod, haddock and sole (aka flounder) at Mullaney’s you may be getting fish that was hauled in at the Scituate town dock, or you may be getting fish from somewhere else in the region.
It works this way: Late at night local fisherman — most of whom grew up with Norton — bring their catches to the shop, label them, and stow them on ice in Norton’s refrigerated truck.
Then, somewhere between 4 and 5 a.m., Norton shows up and drives the truck to the Boston Fish Pier. There he drops off the fishermen’s catches at one of the big fish distributors (for a nominal cost per pound to the fisherman), and proceeds to shop. By the time he’s finished seeing which dealer has the best of each fish and making his purchases, the wholesaler has processed, i.e., butchered, the fish Norton delivered.
Since the Scituate fishermens’ catch gets mixed in with all the other cod, haddock, and sole that the distributor buys, Norton may in fact end up buying back some of the fish he just delivered. But you never know.
On his way home, Norton makes deliveries to a handful of regular Boston restaurant clients.
Back in Scituate, more individual orders (called in by phone the day before) are put together and two trucks head out to make more deliveries.
Of course Mullaney’s also carries many other types of fish — which come from various places via the big fish distributors in Boston. The swordfish and tuna, for instance, fly in from Canada, Hawaii, Paraguay, and Fiji. Halibut can come from more northern waters, and depending on what his customers want, Norton may have oysters from 10 or more places, including Maine and the ever popular Prince Edward Island (PEI).
But stripped bass is the local favorite right this minute. Here’s how Norton suggests cooking it:
Remove the skin (Mullaney’s will do it for you), sprinkle the fillets with salt and pepper, and sear on one side. After flipping them, add some chopped shallots and/or garlic to the skillet and a cup of wine. When the wine has reduced by half – about 10-12 minutes total – the dish will be ready.
I’m going to try it tonight.