"Running a successful fish house is like juggling ice cubes on a hot day," says Jax chef/owner Dave Query in the preface to the new Jax Fish House Book of Fish
. And while he might be right -- doing fresh fish properly in a state that doesn't even border a state that borders an ocean -- can be rough, Query and co-author Jill Zeh Richter give away a lot of the house secrets in this comprehensive guide to all things tasty and aquatic. In addition to roughly a hundred recipes (which include saucing directions and plating hints for the Martha Stewart in all of us) culled from Jax menus past and present, the Book of Fish
is also a treasure chest of food history, lore and terminology. For example, who knew that before industrialization of the area around the Caspian Sea, sturgeon used to live up to 200 years -- and that now all caviar must be processed through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species? Or that many species of grouper undergo sex-reversal in middle age, producing sperm when they're young and eggs when they get older? For food nerds, this is all pretty cool stuff. And for those who don't particularly care about the sexual peculiarities of their dinner and just want to know how to cook it, the recipes are simple, straightforward, brightly illustrated and accompanied by directions for making dozens of sides and sauces.