« January 2007 Table of Contents
Product Spotlight: Turbot
This flatfish is the cream of the crop, but beware of inexpensive imitations
By Linda Skinner
January 01, 2007
A prized species among discerning seafood chefs who put it
in a class with true Dover sole, European turbot is found on
the menus of the whitest of white-tablecloth restaurants.
Because of its limited export supply and coveted
texture attributes, turbot (and that's tur -buht, not
-bo) is the highest-priced
flatfishon the market.
Several lesser-quality Pacific flounders are sometimes
passed off as the real deal, but their flesh is softer and less
flavorful. To give it more market appeal, arrowtooth is sold on
the West Coast as turbot. And don't confuse genuine turbot with
Greenland turbot ( Reinhardtius hippoglossoides ), a relatively
inexpensive member of the halibut family caught in the North
Atlantic and North Pacific. To avoid marketing confusion with
Pacific halibut, the halibut industry lobbied to change this
flatfish's name to turbot.
Most turbot alternatives are sold as frozen fillets, while
European turbot is sold as fresh, whole fish. To be sure, check
the fish's origin and scientific name; formerly classified as
Psetta maximus , turbot now goes by Scophthalmus maximus . A
member of the Bothidae, or left-eyed, family of flounders, it's
found in inshore waters throughout the Mediterranean and north
to the Norwegian Sea. It is wild-caught and farmed in about
equal quantities. According to 2004 fisheries statistics from
the Food and Agriculture Organization, Europe landed 5,758
metric tons. The Netherlands is the major U.S. supplier, at
1,778 metric tons, followed by the UK at 822 and France and
Denmark at 744 and 737, respectively.
Europe's farmed production, at just over 6,138 metric tons
in 2004, surpassed wild harvests. Spain produced the lion's
share, at 4,477 metric tons, much of it from Galicia, where
Stolt Sea Farm dominates turbot aquaculture. The company raises
smaller amounts of turbot in Norway, Portugal and France as
well. Chile and China also contribute to the farmed supply.
Most turbot is consumed regionally, usually sold fresh and
whole. Market size for the scale-less fish ranges from 3 to 6
U.S. buyers who are able to source the European delicacy
sell to upscale purveyors who command a premium price for it.
Patrons looking for a fine-dining experience on Christmas Eve
at the Equinox restaurant in Washington, D.C., could choose a
main course of Sautéed Atlantic Turbot with Caviar Butter,
served with baby spinach, crispy onions and preserved lemon,
In New York on the prix du dinner menu at the French
restaurant Le Perigord (jacket and tie required), $65 buys an
entreé of Turbot with Comté Crust and Champagne Sauce.
High-end home chefs who want to wow dinner guests can
sometimes find turbot at gourmet seafood retailers. "So
delicious and noble that the French created a special,
diamond-shaped turbotiere in which to cook it," says Citarella
Fine Foods' plug
for turbot on its Web site. The
specialty retailer offers whole 2.5- to 3-pound turbot for
Contributing Editor Linda Skinner lives in South Portland,