Eating ray (raja batis) is a peculiar and beautiful experience, rather like you might expect it to be uf you were eating a dragon steak. You sense that this, like shark, is far older and stranger than any fish, or anything for that matter, that you are likely to eat.
A survivor from millions of years ago, they say ray is in the same family as sharks, but with a flavor quite different from the shark’s meaty taste. There are many species and they are all good.
You eat only the ‘wings’, two wide fins that the fish can move in an unbelievable elegant manner. You understand how when you see the meat, which is made up from long, fibrous strands of muscle, and is very lobster-like, both in consistency and taste.
Related: Fresh Fish in Scandinavia
Under the lizard skin the flesh is white and tender, in long, pearly strands, and is as close to lobster as you can get (apart from monkfish). Allow 250-300g per head: there is not much meat, but it is extremely filling.
Ray can be fried whole, in butter, or baked, dotted with butter and sprinkled with sea salt, in a pan in the oven. Pour a little water in the bottom, just so it will not burn, and bake for 25 minutes at 200C/gas mark 6. Check the fish with a pointed knife: if the meat is white all the way to the cartilage it’s done; otherwise shove it back into the oven for a few minutes. It will never become dry, as the jelly will keep it moist.
Related: Scandinavian flatfish
The ray has thick, inedible skin and several layers of jelly-like connective tissue that must be removed before eating. Cook the ray in whole pieces, and remove the skin after cooking. You eat ray by scraping back the skin, and plucking the meat off. In the middle is a very strong and extremely flexible system of tiny bones, like in the fin of a shark, providing the elegance the live ray has as it moves through the water. When you have eaten one side, turn it over and eat the rest.
Eat the fish with a caper-sauce or shredded horseradish, browned butter and lemon. It is best eaten warm. Make plenty as the flesh is perfect in a salad for lunch or a starter the next day. Moisten, but don’t drown the long strands of meat, in a herbed mustard-mayonnaise, chervil-cream or herbed vinaigrette. In autumn, combine with diced raw apples, tiny dice of celeriac, capers and top with crisp bacon and in the spring accompany with new peas, asparagus and small carrot dice for sweetness. Serve with toasted rye bread.
The skate (raja clavata) is also common in Scandinavia.
Scandinavian Ray, written by Tor Kjolberg