This is a very quick and simple dish to prepare, yet I would easily put it into the top five tastiest dishes I have ever cooked... Number one being woodcock, last autumn, on toast... I still think about it on a regular basis. In both cases the recipes have come from 'Nose to Tail Eating' by Mr. Fergus Henderson of St. John restaurant fame.
The last few times I have been down in London I have visited St. John Bread and Wine for a long afternoon lunch. I remember skate salad with lemon and capers, crispy sprats, langoustine in fennel, a bit too much white wine, cheese plates and a generally lovely afternoon. Especially when it is mid week and everyone else is at work... The St. John Hotel is the groups latest addition, opening recently on Leicester Street. It is definitely next on my list for a visit. I hear they serve dinner till 2am and there is suckling pig to share on the menu. I'm going to look into trains right now...
Last weekend we picked up some skate wings, kippers and mussels from Seaview in North Shields, and the first thing to get some attention was the skate. You will need to ask the fishmonger to skin the skate wings on both sides. To start you will need a frying pan that can go in the oven. I didn't have one so used a large casserole type dish which was fine. Melt a splash of oil and a knob of butter in the pan and add the 2 skate wings when it is hot and bubbling. Let it cook for a few moments, shuggle (a St. John description, I knew exactly what they meant...) the pan to stop the fish from sticking, then turn for another few moments and shuggle again.
Transfer the skate to a hot oven for eight to ten minutes. The skate is done when the flesh comes away from the bone easily when you prod it with a knife. Transfer the skate to a hot plate and cover with foil.
Add 200g of butter to the skate pan to melt, when it is sizzling add about twelve 2cm croutons of day old bread, with the crust removed. I used 2 day old sour dough, it worked perfectly. Fry them in the butter until golden and crisp but still springy in the middle. Add the juice of half a lemon until it sizzles and turns brown, then add a small handful of capers and cook for a minute. Finally add a handful of chopped curly parsley and pour everything over the skate wings straight away.
Serve with a crisp salad with a sharp lemon and mustard dressing.