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WINE

Kitchen Tip

September 19, 1996|RUSS PARSONS

Usually when you buy skate, you get it neatly packaged, already cleaned and cut in neat 1- to 2-pound portions. When we went to a wholesale fish market to shop for this recipe, we were handed a full 6-pound skate wing, with the sandpaper-rough shark-like skin still attached.

If this should happen to you, don't panic. Do get a long, very sharp knife and clear a big spot on your kitchen counter. The first step is to trim the wing. You'll want to take off the very thinnest tips (they're all bone and no flesh) and the most cartilaginous part of the backbone, if it's still attached.

Once you've done that, you must remove the skin. You do that the same way you would skin any other fish. Using your long knife, free a corner of skin from the meat on the underside of the wing. Grab that corner (you'll probably need to use a kitchen towel to get a good grip) and place the knife against the edge where the skin meets the flesh. Pull the skin toward you, keeping the edge of the knife slanted against the skin and sawing only as much as is necessary to keep the knife cutting. Turn the skate over and repeat on the other side.

That should remove most of the skin. Anything that's left can be removed simply by sliding the knife underneath (you're using a sharp knife, remember?).

After the skate is skinned, cut it into portions. You'll want to use a fairly heavy knife, such as a chef's knife--a skate wing is full of cartilage. As much as possible, cut along the cartilage, rather than against it. Cut the very thickest pieces separate from the thinner pieces--they'll take much longer to cook. Our 6-pound wing yielded about a dozen pieces after being cleaned and skinned.

Skate, like shark, sometimes smells, well, ammonia-like is the most polite way to put it. If the skate smells strong, soak it in milk or water mixed with lemon juice for half an hour before cooking.

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