The first time I ate skate, I’m sure it was a fillet that was sautéed and crispy. A piscatorial classic of the bistro, it was made with lots of butter, and probably capers. It’s a classic that requires an act of virtuosity, the cutting of the fillet.
Fancy fish sellers and well-trained chefs turned a rather ordinary ingredient into something most cooks couldn’t really do.
About ten years ago or more, skate started showing up unfilleted on restaurant tables. It may be trickier to negotiate for the eater — but the benefit of cooking the fish on its skeletal cartilage is enhanced succulence and taste. It’s a more down-home experience, and it’s much easier to prepare.
Can a professional be willing not to demonstrate daunting skill, in order to yield a more humbly satisfying result? Recall Roland Barthes’ speculation that some music may be inaccessible to the virtuoso…
But there are many virtuosities.