The Hudson River flows from the Adirondacks to the Atlantic, sliding through the hardwoods and soft valleys of upper New York State, moving by such historic sites as West Point and Sleepy Hollow, and finally surging past our doorstep, or, more exactly, a few blocks to the west. It is both a river of promise and a sewer of exploitation. From what other body of water could one dredge up a grand piano, a dead giraffe and caviar?
Intrigued by the Hudson and the variety of its offerings. Senior Editor Bob Boyle has spent years watching the river from his Croton-on-Hudson home, casting into its depths and wading around in its secrets. "The river has fans," says Boyle, waving his arms and sounding Metsy. "There are almost 80 rivers in this country that are longer, but no river has attracted a bigger cult than the Hudson."
Boyle has put his passion on paper. The result is The Hudson River, a Natural and Unnatural History, which will be published this month by W. W. Norton and which includes the improbable fish story that begins on page 70. The book will be a lively text for Hudson cultists, reflecting as it does the juices that have led Boyle to assail despoilers of his river. "I'm plenty angry," says Boyle. And rightfully.
Another of our editors, Jerry Tax, is slightly more urbane on the subject of the Hudson, and perhaps even more adventurous than Boyle. A man with an inquisitive palate, Tax asked Boyle about the gastronomic qualities of the river's fish. Boyle was encouraging—with reservations. He said he once got a striped bass that tasted like fuel oil, and when he cooked a needle fish the bones turned green. Ah, but what about the sturgeon? "Don't bother unless it's smoked," said Boyle.
But Tax. whose present editorial preoccupation is the Alcindor series (page 34), asked Boyle to produce an oven-sized sturgeon, and Jerry's wife, Debbie, prepared it with the following recipe, one which Boyle liked enough to include in his book and which we now recommend to sturgeon fanciers:
After skinning and cleaning the sturgeon, rinse it thoroughly and allow it to dry, then cut crosswise into two-to-three-inch slices and salt well. Thickly slice potatoes, carrots and onions—one of each per piece of fish—and parboil for five to 10 minutes in salted water. Drain the mixture and spread around a large well-buttered casserole. Add a small can of stewed tomatoes and season generously with salt, freshly ground pepper and paprika. Insert slivers of fresh garlic into each sturgeon slice and place the slices on top of the vegetables. Dot with lots of butter, add more pepper and paprika and place uncovered casserole in oven preheated to 350°. Bake for about half an hour, or until the fish is flaky and the vegetables fork-tender. Serve as a stew in soup plates, with bread to sop up the juice.
If you ever catch a Hudson River sturgeon, try the recipe. If you don't, at least catch Boyle's story. Meanwhile, does anybody have a recipe for waterlogged giraffe?
BOB BOYLE IS A MAN WITH A PASSION