It eats mollusks such as clams and mussels.
The French have always eaten Skate, and looked upon it as a gourmet fish, but North Americans haven’t been keen on it. Even now, 95% of Skate caught in North American waters (particularly off the New England and Canadian maritime coast) is exported to France, to satisfy their appetite for it. Most of what does appear at North American markets is caught by accident while fishing for other fishing, so supply is irregular. One of the first upper-scale restaurants to feature it was Le Bernardin in New York City in the 1980s.
Only the “wings” of the fish are eaten. In the centre of the wing, in place of bone is “cartilage.” Skate wings are usually divided into two fillets around this cartilage. It is often sold already skinned and filleted for you. The meat in them is boneless.
The flesh in them has a mild, sweet taste which to some tastes like any white fish. It is a translucent white, occasionally with pink shading. When cooked, it is very delicate and if overcooked, it can get stringy.
The skin is tough. If you have a whole skate wing, you can remove the skin easily by briefly blanching it in boiling water with a bit of vinegar in it for 30 seconds, then plunging it into ice cold water, then use a knife to work the skin away from the flesh, pulling it off as you go.
To divide a whole wing into fillets, starting at the wider end of the wing, cut 1 flesh fillet away from the centre cartilage, then do the other fillet.
Skate can be bought fresh or frozen. If it wasn’t handled properly, it can smell of ammonia — avoid those pieces.
Cook as per times provided for all fish.
Skate is usually poached or steamed, but can also be cooked in any of the other ways you would cook fish.
The French sauté it in lots of butter, letting the butter brown and using it as a sauce.
If you are frying Skate, it is important to cook it in a non-stick pan. Coat fish in flour before frying — the flesh is very delicate and this will help protect it. Pat dry on paper towelling before flouring. Then, heat equal parts of oil and butter in the pan, then fry the fish for 5 minutes per side, turning only once.