With their fearsome appearance and off-kilter anatomy, stingrays and skates are an intimidating fish for the uninitiated. In truth, despite their odd looks, rays are an easy fish to work with. Once the leathery skin is peeled away, a ray's wing consists of two slab-like fillets attached to a flat plate of cartilage. The wing can be cooked whole or filleted first, an uncomplicated procedure either way. Skate recipes are plentiful, and you also can use any of them with stingray.
Baking a Whole Wing
Baking your ray's wing whole is a simple preparation, and it can make an impressive centerpiece for your meal if you bring it to the table intact. Just brush it lightly with oil or melted butter, scatter it with herbs, spices or breadcrumbs, and bake it for 20 to 30 minutes. For a more elaborate version, bathe the wing in sauce or cover it with a tomato or fruit salsa before it goes into the oven. To serve, use a spatula, fork or fish server to lift portions from the central cartilage. It will lift away readily.
Most fish is good when fried, but ray wings are especially tasty. They're high in natural gelatin, which melts in the searing heat of the hot oil and gives the finished portion a moist, rich mouth feel. Use a long, thin-bladed knife to cut the flat fillets from their plate of cartilage, then slice them into portions. They can be pan-seared with a light dusting of flour or breadcrumbs or deep-fried in batter or breading. Alternatively, lower the temperature and pan-fry the wing gently in butter. Serve it with browned butter, capers and a splash of lemon juice for a classically French approach.
Flying Farther Afield
Stingrays are found in waters all around the world, and it's unsurprising that it's cooked with equal enthusiasm in non-Western cuisines. For example, in the Philippines, ray and skate wings are simmered in heavily spiced coconut milk and served over rice. In Singapore, stingray is spread with a richly flavored spice paste and then wrapped in a banana leaf. The whole parcel is grilled over a hot fire, as the spices and the charred banana leaf impart their flavors to the stingray.
A Few Random Points
Removing the skin from your wings isn't complicated, but it does require some strength. Loosen the end of the skin with your knife, then use a towel or pliers to grip it and pull it off. Unless you've caught the ray yourself, it's easier to just let the fishmonger do it. Alternatively, bake the wing with its skin on and then pull it off after the ray is cooled. The skin will peel away easily, leaving the delicate flesh ready to season, sauce and serve. Save the skin and cartilage whenever you cook stingray, and simmer them to make a superlative fish broth for later use.