Methods & Madness… Class 9: Fish
Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School
I grew up on a farm in Iowa. We raised cows, pigs, and chickens, but no fish. Even though there are 25,000 identified species of fish, the only ones that made it to Iowa were frozen, breaded and slapped on a plastic tray in the lunch line. Sadly, that was my sole culinary fish experience as a child.
Hook, Line, and Sinker
Fishing was a different story. I learned that from my Grandmother. She said all you need to fish is a tree branch (rod), fishing line, a safety pin (hook), freshly caught grasshoppers (bait) and the patience of Job. I am not sure if it was catching the grasshoppers or just listening to Grandmother’s stories that I loved most. I was always grateful that we didn’t catch any fish for fear of having to cut and clean them.
Today’s class confirmed those fish filleting fears. I was floundering at the sight of the dead fish in front of me. Filleting is a messy job best left to a fishmonger. But for the brave of heart, or culinary student… it is possible.
For a video on how to fillet a whole salmon click here.
Rona successfully skinned her fish in class to make “Black Cod with a Miso Glaze served with Ginger Stir Fried Bok Choy”. Click here for that recipe.
Fish is high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega 3 fatty acids. Eating fish can reduce problems associated with PMS, memory loss, cardiovascular functions, colon cancer, and stroke.
Types of Fin Fish
- Round— has a middle backbone with one fillet on either side, and one eye on each side of its head.
- Flat—has a backbone running through the center of fish, both eyes are on the same side of the head.
- Non-Boney—has cartilage rather than bones.
Fish are also categorized by their activity levels of low, medium and high. The more a fish swims the flesh will be darker, the oil content higher, and the flavor stronger.
- Flat—halibut, turbot, sole, flounder
- Low Activity Round—haddock, pollock, cod
- Medium Activity Round—pike, grouper, yellowtail, snapper, sea bass
- High Activity Round—salmon, trout, arctic char, tuna
- Non-Boney—sturgeon, monkfish, sword fish
- Other fish—eel, catfish, anchovy, sardine, tilapia
Best Cooking Techniques
- Active fish have firm flesh, and are oilier with a stronger taste. They are good for grilling, sautéing, poaching, steaming, roasting—not good for deep-frying.
- Low Active fish are mild, lean, flaky and have a delicate flavor. They are great for sautéing, deep-frying, broiling, grilling, poaching, steaming and baking—not good for grilling.
If you want to know how to select a sustainable fish click here to read my blog titled
“The Seafood Saga… 6 things to know before you buy”.
How to buy Fish – Use Your Senses
- Look. It should have shiny and taught skin with no discolored patches. If you are buying a whole fish, eyes should be clear and full, fins should not be torn. If there is any liquid on the meat it should be clear, not milky. Milky liquid on a fillet is the first stage of rot.
- Smell. A fresh fish should smell like the ocean or seaweed. Don’t buy a nasty smelling fish. Cooking won’t improve it and your cats won’t eat it either… don’t ask.
- Touch. If you can touch the fish, it should have a dense quality. If it is full of moisture it should spring back when you touch it. If my fingerprint remains, I move on to the beef department.
Dry Rubbed Grilled Tuna with Orzo Salad
From New School of Cooking
Orzo Salad Ingredients
- 1/2 lb. orzo, cooked and cooled
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp. lime zest
- 1 T. mint, roughly chopped
- 1 T. dill, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 3 oz. feta cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the orzo in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain. Once orzo has cooled, toss with remaining ingredients and serve.
Dry Rubbed Grilled Tuna
- 1 tsp. cayenne
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. finely minced thyme
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1 1/2 lbs albacore fillet
Did you know?
There are more species of fish than all the species of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals combined. And guess what… they all eat fish.
Fish and Fisheries cited over 500 research papers on fish intelligence, proving that fish are smart, and have impressive long-term memories and sophisticated social structures.
Fish appear to be smarter than cats, or at least this one.
Now that you’ve been entertained, I’m off to fry other fish.
…and then she paused for thought
Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join us each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.Yum