It’s pretty exciting when unexpected food adventures occur around town. As the Food and Entertainment editor for the Tahoe Weekly and a personal chef in town, I love a culinary challenge. Whether it’s making meals for people with specific dietary needs, preparing food for professionals too busy to cook for themselves or catering small parties for health-conscious clients, I am passionate about preparing delicious, fresh, healthy cuisine.
That’s where the fun began. Anne Artoux, our sales manager, forwarded me an e-mail from Brand Little owner of The Little Fish Company. He was looking to create a sea-to-table video, which would include Brand, a fisherman, heading out to sea as usual, fishing on Monday. He would then meet up with a client on Tuesday at the farmers’ market in Truckee where he sells fresh fish. The client would choose a piece of fish he caught the day before and he and the client would prepare the fish in his or her kitchen. I was intrigued. I contacted Brand and made arrangements to meet him the next morning.
He handed me a piece of king salmon that was almost 2 inches think. Bright white stripes of fat ran across it, which he explained gives the fish a richer, more delicious flavor.
I pondered how I would prepare salmon — a simple recipe to allow the fish to speak for itself. I prepped a station in my kitchen feeling a little as if I was about to be a contestant on a cooking show. I chopped some garlic; set aside some lemons, capers and dill; laid a pan on the stove and set aside my knives on a cutting board. I was ready.
The farmers’ market was bustling and there was a long line of people eager to buy fish at The Little Fish Company stand. I was early. Brand and Justin, who runs the stand, were discussing fish with their customers. I moseyed over to the Spring Hill Farms booth to purchase Jersey cow butter. Everything’s better with butter, but butter made from a Jersey cow is a whole other experience. Yellow in color and smooth in taste, there is nothing quite as delicious as freshly churned butter.
A beautiful array of fish was laid out on ice at the stand: snapper, salmon and ahi along with halibut from Alaska and California, wild shrimp and scallops. There was also a selection of lingcod, one piece stood out due to its blue hue. Brand was saving this piece for a client in South Lake who would prepare it for the video.
With the video rolling and customers waiting, Brand discussed all things fish and how just the day before he was on his boat fishing for today. He handed me a piece of king salmon that was almost 2 inches think. Bright white stripes of fat ran across it, which he explained gives the fish a richer, more delicious flavor. He also handed me a piece of lingcod to try.
Brand followed me home and began shooting a video of me cooking his catch. I added the Spring Hill Farm butter to a pan and added a bit of chopped garlic. I laid the beautiful piece of salmon in the pan and squeezed a half lemon over it, adding fresh dill, capers and a dash of salt and fresh ground pepper.
It was truly a thick piece of fish so I decided to cover the pan with a lid. I love sushi, but I wanted to cook the fish keeping it rare in the center. I’d serve the fish with roasted asparagus and a basmati and wild rice cooked in duck fat.
By 11:30 a.m., Brand and I sat down to eat a salmon meal. It was the best piece of salmon I’ve ever tasted. I took the camera and videotaped Brand tasting his fresh catch. “It tastes like the ocean,” he said. “And the capers are a great addition.”
The irony is Brand isn’t a big fan of fish. He and his wife live on a 10-acre farm in Grass Valley. They have cows, chickens and pigs and an organic garden. They make their own butter, yogurt and ice cream. The vegetables they eat are from their garden and the meat they eat is from the animals they raise.
Brand was a professional bass fisherman and loved to fish. He decided he wanted to make his living fishing. He spends weeks at a time on his commercial fishing boat. “During salmon season, I was home four days in two months,” says Brand. “It’s a feast or famine industry.”
Brand spends summers catching fish and seafood for the farmers’ markets, but The Little Fish Company operates all year. Brand delivers fresh-caught fish to customers in his pickup truck at the Pour House in Truckee and Commons Beach in Tahoe City during the winter months — no matter what the weather.
“I’ve driven the fish in during snowstorms. We have a one-hour window to hand out fish,” says Brand.
Customers can pre-order online. In the winter, he offers a wide variety of fish and seafood including crab, Petrale sole and sablefish and procures tuna year-round. For more information, visit wildlittlefish.com.
From the kitchen of Priya Hutner
1 fresh caught Little Fish Company Salmon
2 T grass fed butter, diced
2 T capers with brine juice
1 lemon juiced
2 t fresh dill
Salt & pepper
Melt butter in pan on medium heat place salmon in pan skin side down. Squeeze half of the lemon over the salmon and sauté for 3-4 minutes or more depending upon thickness of the piece.
Add capers, salt and pepper and 1 tsp. of dill and half of the capers and brine.
Turn salmon once and cook for another minute or two. Do not overcook.
Plate salmon and squeeze more lemon over it and top with the remaining dill and capers and serve hot.