Dirk Fucik has no illusions that he can turn back the Asian carp invasion that threatens the Great Lakes. But by making, selling, and even offering free samples of “carp burgers,” his Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop in Chicago has been encouraging fellow anglers and others to slow the spread of these exotic species one bite at a time.
“We have been promoting the eating of Asian carp for about five years now,” said Fucik, a longtime member of B.A.S.S.
“We give out free samples every week at the shop, have worked with Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Army Corp of Engineers to give away carp burgers at the Taste of Chicago, and we are partnered with the Shedd Aquarium in promoting the use of Asian carp.
“It’s a great-eating fish,” he added. “We just have to get past the bones and the stigma of carp.”
At Taste of Chicago, an annual food festival, Fucik typically gives away 800 burgers in two hours, with 90 percent of those who try them approving.
“When Americans think of carp, they think of German carp,” he said. “And that fish is a bottom feeder. It is a dark-fleshed meat, and it’s strong in flavor and bony.”
By contrast, Asian carp are plankton eaters, and their meat is white, resembling cod. But they are bony. To solve that problem, Fucik extracted the large bones and then ran the meat and small bones through a meat grinder.
“It’s similar to burger meat,” he said.
And at about $6 a pound, it’s much cheaper than salmon burgers at $18.
“We should all embrace the use of Asian carp for food purposes,” he said. “It is a great lean, low-fat protein and, being a problem invasive species, eating it is a great solution.”
Dirk's Carp Burgers:
2 pounds Asian carp fillets, ground
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs( this is optional)
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
4 teaspoons dry oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh oregano
4 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Combine all ingredients except panko crumbs. Grind the fish twice to make sure there are no more bones and to blend the spices. Add panko crumbs and form into patties or choose not to use breading. The burgers will be a little softer but just handle with care.
If you want to add cheese, use a soft cheese. Form a small ball of cheese and insert into the center of the burger. Form the burger around the cheese.
Cook for about 5 minutes per side on a hot grill, the cheese will start leaking out when they are almost done.
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)