While he’s helped place the fish in front of many local diners — most recently at the Washington Humane Society’s 12th Annual Sugar & Champagne gala — Drewno believes there’s still more work to do. “We haven’t successfully created a market for it — yet,” he said, suggesting that uninformed consumers are still spooked by the name.
Local fishermen, meanwhile, haven’t fully mastered how best to pluck the confounding critter from the Potomac.
“They isolate themselves a few times a year to spawn, which places them in shallower waters than the fishermen are accustomed to fishing. [During] summer months they are protected by both these shallows and the added vegetation,” Rorapaugh said of his wily foe. As illustrated during Zimmern’s somewhat frustrating fishing expedition, a nocturnal excursion requiring the hunters to stalk their fast-moving prey with bows and arrows, tracking snakeheads requires an eagle eye and quick reflexes.
The snakeheads appear to be winning.
“I do know that in the two years we have sponsored the Potomac Snakehead Tournament the numbers of snakehead harvested tripled,” Rorapaugh said.
Once it’s out of the muck, Drewno insists the fish is utterly delightful. “It’s a really easy fish to cook ... and very versatile,” he said. Drewno said curing and smoking is his preferred preparation technique for the naturally oily specimen.
While he lauded Wells’ blackened version, Rorapaugh experiences his first taste of “snakeheads caviar” after Zimmern doctors the roe sack with salt.
“C’mon, that’s stupid good,” Zimmern says while slurping fish eggs alongside the equally spellbound Rorapaugh.
Zimmern samples snakehead three different ways during the Feb. 11 episode. His dream is for others to take the plunge at least once.
“I hope this show makes a difference in the American diet,” he said.