If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man how to get fish, plus 120 different ways to cook them, you’re Hank Shaw.
Shaw, a James Beard Award-winning writer, hunter, angler, gardener and cook, who has been a deckhand aboard a Juneau-based gillnetter, is in town this week for a pair of events to promote his fifth book, “Hook, Line and Sinker.” Shaw will be at Tracy’s Crab Shack 2 Friday evening for Southeast Feast Happy Hour, a collaboration with Salmon Beyond Borders.
“My fondest hope is that people who pick this book up look at the seafood here in Southeast Alaska with a new eye, and it gives them a little bit of inspiration and a little bit of pleasure to realize that the seafood and the fish here, is some of the best in the world, and this book reflects that,” Shaw said in a phone interview shortly after arriving in Juneau.
Shaw said while all of his books are fairly relevant to Alaskans, ”Hook, Line, and Supper,” should resonate particularly strongly.
“This book, I think I should be locked up if I don’t go to Juneau for this book,” Shaw said.
For folks unable to get tickets to the Southeast Feast, Shaw said his book is generally available wherever books are sold.
In the foreword to “Hook, Line and Supper” Shaw writes that in some ways it was the most personal and difficult of his books to write because of the prominent role fishing and cooking fish has played in his life. He said that closeness to the subject matter is why it’s his fifth book as opposed to his first.
“Part of it is, I know too much, and yet I didn’t know enough,” Shaw said. “I know a lot about a lot, but then I realized from talking with different parts of the country, I didn’t have a lot of experience with X fish or Y fish.”
That led to what Shaw joked was the “toughest research in the world” — traveling around the country fishing and cooking fish.
“Experiencing all the species of fish all over the continent allowed me to say, ‘Yeah, this works,’” Shaw said. “And I think that was very validating after a lot of hard work testing things out.”
The end result is a hefty hardcover book packed with information about nearly everything someone could want to know about obtaining, cooking and eating fish.
Every recipe in the book was tested multiple times, with readers of his website stepping in to give him feedback about recipes as tried at home.
Even the less pleasant aspects of cooking with fish—smells, staring eyes, parasites —are covered. The book is divided into two major parts —“Basics” and “Cooking” —and further subdivided into a total of 19 chapters covering pairings, frying, steaming, grilling, smoking and more.
The cover of the book trumpets “New techniques and master recipes for everything caught in lakes, rivers and streams and at sea.”
Shaw said his mantra is always be useful, and he hopes the book can be as handy to someone in Alaska as it would be to someone living near the Gulf of Mexico or even Iowa.
For those just beginning to cook fish and seafood, Shaw said stews and soups are incredibly user-friendly.
“Another one that everybody loves is cornmeal-dusted fried fish,” Shaw said.
His advice for frying fish?
“Have your oil hot, 350 degrees,” Shaw said. “Greasy, gross fried fish comes from oil that’s not hot enough. The difference between a piece of halibut fried at 300 and a piece of halibut fried at 350 is quantum.”
• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt
Know & Go
What: Southeast Feast Happy Hour with Hank Shaw
When: Friday, Aug. 20, 6-7 p.m.
Where: Tracy’s Crab Shack 2.
Admission: Tickets must be purchased in advance at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/southeast-feast-happy-hour-with-hank-shaw-tickets-164039519619. Tickets cost $45 and include a copy of “Hook, Line, and Supper” and a Salmon Beyond Borders gift bag. As of Thursday afternoon, there were still “a few tickets left,” according to organizers.