Hooked: Newlyweds in the Kitchen, No. 4 WTF are Fish Collars

  • Kim Watson-Ito and Justin Ito-Adler
  • 4 min read

Our new series,Hooked: Newlyweds in the Kitchen, is where Boston-based couple Kim Watson Ito and Justin Ito-Adler chronicle their love of seafood and a whole lot of quarantine cooking. Follow their adventures here and on Instagram and Facebook at  #hookedonwulfs


There are a few things that come to mind when I think of fish. I see fins, tails, scales... the ocean. Maybe I remember Finding Nemo or start to crave Goldfish crackers. So, when our next Wulf’s shipment arrived this week packed full of salmon and striper collars, I quickly learned that a) I didn’t know fish had collars and b) I’d probably be starving if I hadn’t married Justin. After we unpacked the collars I was given a very patient lesson on fish anatomy, nudged out of the kitchen, and passed a beer. Sigh. I married well. Take it away, Justin.


Think about it almost like eating ribs or chicken wings, but with the fattiness of a pork cheek or even a ribeye.


First Impression

Justin: So, it isn’t exactly a part of the fish you didn’t know about, it is more a part of the fish you didn’t know you could eat. When a fish gets filleted it generally gets sliced right after the pectoral fin and cut adjacent to the spine, all the way to the tail. Often the collar is (very sadly) thrown away because, well, people are lazy and they don’t want to deal with bones. Not only are they delicious, but they are also in the vein of eco-friendly, nose-to-tail (or nose-to-fin) cooking. What is fun about the collar is that it has a variety of different textures and flavors because some of those muscles aren’t used the same way as the muscles that a fish uses to swim. Long story short, collars are generally fatty and delicious. Think about it almost like eating ribs or chicken wings, but with the fattiness of a pork cheek or even a ribeye.

Kim:Ribs, into it.


Prep Work

Justin: My go-to method with a fish collar is marinating it and roasting it in the oven. For the marinade, I mix it up depending on what I have on hand. For ease of use, I am going to use the same marinade on both the salmon collars and the striped bass collars. I took soy, fish sauce, mirin, sesame oil, sesame seeds, jalapeño, scallions, black pepper, garlic and more raw garlic, and gave it a loose blend so there were still some chunks in it. I would have used ginger as well, but we’re out. Unfortunately, I didn’t measure the ingredients (novice food writer status), but I’m sure people can figure it out. In terms of actually making them, I am going to let these sit in the marinade for 10+ hours and grill them at a friend’s place for ease of cleanup. We’re also a few days away from trash day and have to consider that when cooking fish…

Kim: After years of training, he finally considers trash day. There is nothing I hate more than a trash can full of fish and the three days of waiting until you can put it outside.


On The Grill

Justin: Cooking collars on the grill is awesome because it gives you some direct heat to get some nice char marks on the fish, but it also gives you the ambient heat of an oven when you close the lid. The hardest part is making sure the skin doesn’t stick to the grill grates. I gave the grill a good clean and a little oil, but that was still something I needed to be aware of. It was also helpful to baste the collars with the reserve marinade to keep them juicy. The marinade helped kick the flames up a bit which charred the collars nicely. Hopefully the person who uses this grill after me isn’t deathly allergic to garlic…

The collars take longer than you might think to cook because of the bone. I cooked them for about 15-20 minutes on high heat. They’re done when the meat can easily be separated from the bone. The striped bass took longer because the collars were slightly bigger. Unfortunately, this is a thing you need to cook by feel. I suppose I could have used a meat probe and poked at it, but I didn’t bring one.

Kim: This was a wonderful experience for me. Really solid choice to cook these away from home. I got to stretch out on a summer day, downwind from the grill and again with a cold beer. The worst part was the waiting, the food smelled amazing.


The Outcome

Justin: I love collars. Hamachi, kampachi, striper, salmon… they’re all great in my book. I’m not sure if I like them better grilled or broiled in the oven. The oven is definitely easier, but I think the grill gave it a nicer char. We served these over seasoned rice, with scallions and crispy garlic, but they stood up to just about everything we have tried with them. Kimchi, peanuts, nori…

Kim: These are ridiculous. I give a slight edge to the striper, and a definite win to the grill. I can just imagine this marinade smoking in our oven. Plus, you mentioned garlic at least three times.


Final Thoughts

Justin: Yum. I need a nap.

Kim: Well done as always, Justin. The striper was super meaty, and you were right that it’s almost like eating a rib. Thanks for the education, the marinade and the meal. I’ll handle the dishes and take out the trash.


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Kim Watson Ito and Justin Ito-Adler are newlyweds living in the North End of Boston. One is a professional writer and the other is a former restaurant industry professional. We’ll let you discover who’s who. Their kitchen is tiny, but their appetites are big. Hooked is a collection of their trials, tribulations, and tastes as they explore the wide world of Wulf’s seafood. 

Follow them on Instagram @JIToadler and @Kimberwats  and on the hashtag #hookedonwulfs