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Fabricating Fish & Seafood: A Primer

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    Posted: 16 February 2013 at 11:37

Part 1: Tools of the Trade:

 
Do you watch cooking competitions? I do. And it always astounds me how few young chefs can handle basic fabrication chores.
 

It’s one thing when a contestant on The Worst Cooks in America doesn’t know how to break-down a chicken. Quite another when a professional on Top Chef or Chopped is left scratching his or her head because they don’t know where to begin butchering a primal cut.

This especially shows up with fish and seafood. Faced with a whole fish, contestant after contestant exclaims, “I’ve never fileted a fish before,” or “I have no idea what to do with this,” or words to that effect.

If professionals---who supposedly were trained in these techniques---have trouble, it’s little wonder that home cooks depend on their fish mongers to do the “hard” parts.

The thing is, nothing about fabricating seafood is at all difficult. Ninety percent of the time, or more, only simple cuts are required. You just have to know where and when to make them, and what tool to use.

Thus, a logical place to begin is with the tools. Keep in mind that specialized tools make the job easier and more efficient, but they’re not necessarily required. You can always make do with a substitute. Whenever appropriate, I’ll discuss those alternatives.

Let’s start with knives. Most of the time, when breaking down a fish, what you need is a thin, fairly flexible, extremely sharp knife.  A chef’s knife is actually the worst choice for this, because it’s too broad and inflexible. Yet, that’s the one most celebrity chefs and contestants automatically reach for.

I remember one show when there were, I believe, eight contestants left, and there was a challenge to test their knife skills. Most have been one of the Next Iron Chef episodes, because Morimoto was the judge. To be sure, that alone is intimidating, given his knife skills.

At any rate, they each were provided the same selection of knives, and had to break down a chicken, filet a fish, and do something with vegetables. Part of the criteria was that they choose the correct knife for the job.

Almost all of them just reached for the chef’s knife. The result: they pretty much redefined the word “butcher” as it applies to fabricating food.

If you’re a fisherman, or have access to fresh-landed fish you can buy off the boat, then a filet knife is an essential part of your kit. If you buy whole fish from the market, it will already be gutted. This actually makes fileting more difficult, and a filet knife is even more crucial to do the job correctly.

If you cook fish frequently, of different types, several filet knives might come in handy, as they come in different sizes. But, the fact is, a filet knife with a six-inch blade, can work on any reasonably sized fish.

If you don’t want to invest in a filet knife, a slicer makes more sense than a chef’s knife. Indeed, for really large fish---those in excess of, say, 25 pounds, that’s usually what I reach for.

If you’re big on shellfish, then a so-called “oyster knife” should be part of your tool collection. An oyster knife consists of a thick, stubby handle with a relatively large guard, and a short, comparatively dull, blade. “Knife” is a misnomer, here, because it’s used for prying and twisting, rather than cutting. The large guard and rounded tip help minimize cutting yourself on shells should the knife slip---which is a fairly common happenstance. Which is why savvy shellfish shuckers hold the oyster or clam in a heavily gloved hand.

You can use a heavy butter knife to shuck clams and oysters. But, because it has no guard, I’d advice using a glove on both hands. Under no circumstances should you use a sharp or pointed knife. That’s a guaranteed way of hurting yourself.

Trout, salmon, mackerel, and some other fish have very small, tightly adhering scales, which can be left in place. The majority of fish, however, have large, loose, inedible scales. If you’ll be cooking that fish with the skin on, the scales have to be removed first.

Scalers are like guns: you don’t need one until you really need one. So it makes sense to keep one handy.

Scalers come in a diversity of sizes and configurations. Essentially, however, they consist of a toothed blade attached to a handle. Starting at the tail, your scrape the fish towards the head. This causes the scales to let go.

Scales can really fly, so it’s a good idea to do that job out of doors. If you do it in the garden you’ll be adding nutrients as well as cleaning the fish.

In a pinch, a spoon, or the back of a knife, can be used to scale fish. But neither of these does the job nearly as efficiently.

If you buy fish from the market, scaling supposedly has been done. But don’t count on it. You may have to go over the fish yourself, to assure they’ve all been removed.

Boning pliers or boning tweezers can be handy tools to have. Their obvious use is to help remove bones, particularly from filets. Frankly, I’ve never owned a set, because needle nosed pliers do the job just as well. I like keeping a set with smooth jaws, as well as toothed jaws, for that purpose.

For cleaning crabs and other crustations, picks are required. The meat in a crab is found in a set of compartments, each formed by cartilage. To access it, you use the pick to scrape and pull the meat from its little room. In theory other tools, such as cocktail forks, can accomplish this. If nothing else, even a toothpick can do the job. But there’s really nothing that does it as well.

A set of nutcrackers or three really come in handy from cracking the shells of crabs and lobsters. Note that I said "nutcracker." There are tools, virtually the same, marketed as "claw crakers" and "seafood crackers." The only difference is their higher pricetag.

To be sure, there’s a whole slew of specialized tools designed for prepping seafood. Friend Wife has a shrimp peeler, for instance, that she swears by. To me, that gets us into the realm of gadgets. But the top five, in my opinion, are the only essentials.

Nor are any of them particularly expensive. A really good filet knife, an oyster knife, boning pliers, and a half dozen picks probably won’t set you back fifty bucks.

edited to reflect the fact I had forgotten to include nutcrackers. So sue me!
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 February 2013 at 14:19
First, thanks for what I'm sure will be another awesome addition to this little corner of the internet. I look forward to these primers more than you might know.

To answer your question; I don't watch those cook off type shows. I want to see teaching shows which are hard to come by.
  
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Thanks again for a wonderful primer.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 February 2013 at 02:26
LOL...I can still remember Grandpa on Sunday afternoon nailing pop bottle caps to short pieces of lath so we kids could scale a mountain of fresh yellow perch with them. They worked darned well by the way....Every summertime Sunday was fish fry at Grandpa'sSmile
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I remember those, Dave. To this day they probably are the best scalers ever made. Unfortunately, crown caps have all but gone the way of the doodoo bird.
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Part 2: Fish In The Round

Whole fish are referred to as “in the round.”

Unless you catch your own, or buy them directly from a fisherman, it’s rare that you’ll truly see a complete in-the-round fish. Those you purchase from a fish monger or seafood counter have, if nothing else, been gutted.

Gutting a whole fish is actually the simplest fabrication task. You merely slit the belly of the fish, from the vent (near the tail) to the collar (a ring of bone just behind the gills). Grab the entrails as close to the gills as you can, and pull downwards. Everything will drop out.

Fish you buy already gutted will still have the gills in place. That’s merely because one way of judging fresh fish is the color and texture of the gills. But they should be removed before cooking. If you’re starting with a complete fish, you remove them the same time the entrails come out. This process is called “gut and gilling.”

If you intend stuffing the fish, one advantage of starting with a whole one is that you can gut and gill it backwards. Start by making a cut along the dorsal (back) line of the fish, working down to the backbone. Cut out the spine and continue cutting as if you were going to butterfly the fish. Once you reach the belly cavity you can remove the entrails and gills.  For the ultimate in this, remove the ribs and other bones while you're at it.

What this does is leave a body cavity enclosed by the belly skin, which helps hold the stuffing in place.

You don’t see this done too often, even in upscale restaurants, because it is very time consuming. But there’s no reason not to do it at home, particularly when having guests. It makes a fantastic presentation.

Back to fish gut and gilled the conventional way. There is a blood channel lying along the backbone of the fish, inside the rib cage. Commercial processors are sometimes remiss cleaning that out. So you want to check it.

On smaller fish, such as perch and trout, you can do that with a thumbnail. Larger fish might need the help of a spoon. Either way, scrape the channel from head to tail. It sometimes helps to do that under running water.

You’re now ready to start prepping the fish.

First step is to remove any fins remaining on the fish, particularly the dorsal fin. It is unsightly, to begin with, and is potentially dangerous because it’s easy to prick a finger on the spines.

Many authorities and celebrity chefs perform this step with shears. The fins are trimmed away even with the skin of the fish. Quick and easy.

The trouble is, the spines that form the “ribs” of a fin extend down to the backbone. Leaving them behind creates the danger of eating them. Well, danger is too strong a word. But a mouthful of those spines, even after being softened by the cooking process, is not the most pleasant dining experience you’re likely to have. So it’s better to remove them.

Using your filet knife, make two cuts, flanking the fin and as close to it as possible. Extend these cuts down to the spine. Grab the fin with your fingers or a pair of pliers and pull. The whole thing will pop right out.

Once the fins are removed, scale the fish. Work from the tail towards the head, and make sure to get all of them. As mentioned earlier, scaling can be a messy job, best done outside.

The last step to prepping whole fish is to trim the tail so it is even and pleasing. You might not think this is necessary, but tails are readily subject to damage, both while the fish is alive and after it is killed. Why go to all the trouble of prepping a whole fish, and then serve it with a ragged, unappealing tail?

Washing fish is a controversial topic, with good arguments, pro and con, on both sides. Personally, I do wash fish. What I don’t do is let it soak in standing water. Instead the fish is rinsed, inside and out, under cool, running water, and dried immediately with paper towels.

Basically, your whole fish is ready to cook. Further fabrication depends on the method you’ll be using, and your aesthetic tastes.

Many people, for instance, find fish served with the head on to be off-putting. If that’s the case, remove it.

Best way of doing this is to use the collar as a guide. Follow the curve of the collar bone, from the belly towards the back, continuing the forward movement as you clear the collar and enter the back of the head.  Be sure an save the head for making fish stock.

Very thick fish are often scored before cooking. This speeds up the cooking process, and creates channels for adding flavoring ingredients. From a presentation point of view, it is better to cut the scores at an angle, thus  > /  /  /  /  ), rather than straight up and down.

Whole fish can be prepared using just about any cooking method. To my mind, nothing is as impressive as a poached salmon, served whole with appropriate garnishes. But, realistically, grilling, broiling, and baking seem to be the more popular approaches.

Here’s one version:

Red Snapper with Fennel Butter

6 whole snapper, heads and tails attached

¾ cup butter, softened

1 tsp crushed fennel seed

1 tsp lemon juice

1/8 tsp crushed garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup olive oil

1 tbls lemon zest

¼ tsp thyme

Fennel fronds for garnish (optional)

Lemon halves for garnish (optional)

 

In a bowl combine the butter, fennel seeds, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Spread the interiors of the fish with half this mixture.

 

In a large zipper bag combine the olive oil, zest, thyme, salt and pepper. Add the fish and let them marinate, turning once, for one hour.

 

Drain the fish and put them on the rack of a broiler pan. Broil under a preheated broiler, basting them frequently with the marinade, for five minutes on each side.

 

Arrange the fish on a serving platter and decorate with fennel fronds, if available, and lemon halves. Serve the remaining fennel butter separately.

 

 

 

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 February 2013 at 09:14
   Oh man, Brook...thanks! 

  This is a very timely post for me.  While I do cook fish and seafood, I've really wanted to "up" my game in this category. 

   After reading the two parts of your primer so far, I can't wait for the next one to arrive!  But please, do not push yourself.  You do such a good job with your thought, and your writing that I would hope it doesn't become a chore to you.  I will see how it goes, but I may cook my way through this series as I read it.

    Some questions.  Thanks so much for starting with various techniques for preparing our fish, I love the suggestion about pulling the dorsal fin out.  I think each species of fish can come with it's own set of "issues" when prepping.  Do you have any suggestions on filleting walleye or northern.  For Walleye I use the "zipper method" and the Y bones in Northern I just kind of go by feel (not sure how else to describe it).  I'd love to hear any tricks or techniques you may have when prepping a fish that presents some unique issues.

   Thanks again Brook!

  Dan
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 February 2013 at 09:20

Brook,

 
Your red snapper recipe is eloquent ... We do not have Red Snapper in the Mediterranean, however, it is a member of the Bream family and resembles a sea bream with a rose pink scaling ...
 
So, it can work with gilt bream or sea bream or even sea bass or any Mediterranean in season fish ...
 
These whole fish are comparative in size to a red snapper ... 
 
Thanks for posting ... When, I prepare I shall post a mini pictorial and fotos of the fresh fish ... Since I only need 2 or 4, I shall have to reduce your seasoning a bit ...
 
Best regards.
Nice Primer.  
Margaux.
 
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 February 2013 at 09:32
   Brook...Margi brings up an interesting point about substituting fish.  While I don't think any of us will be surprised that this is perfectly acceptable, we may not be particularly familiar enough with a specific fish (or dish) to be able to come up with our own substitution.  Do you think it would be a good idea to give the recipe out naming the intended fish to be used, then some common substitutions?

  Thanks...Dan
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 February 2013 at 09:42

Dan,

Last year, I had typed an International Fish Guide in the Meats and Fish Section which is also translated into 6 languages: English, Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Portuguese, French, German and Italian ...
 
Your idea is great, however, Brook does not know the seasonal Iberian Fish, as I do living here since 1996 and thus, it would require alot of research in Spanish or Italian or French to provide subs.
 
I have a great book in my Library, listing all the names of all the European based Atlantic varieties and both eastern and western Medit. varieties; with their history and Latin names ...
 
The Latin background provides us with the family members ...
 
I shall provide name of book tomorrow as it is in the antique chest ( trunk ) and I would have to go digging ... However, u can look at the Feature, and I am sure, you shall find it quite useful; and it also lists the designation waters of each variety too .
 
Hope this assists.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 February 2013 at 09:52
 
Dan;
 
GLOBAL FISH GUIDE - PAGE 3
 
 
After all the translating; I had forgotten to post all the photos, I have ... Shall do this coming wkend.  Also, adding several other varieties: crabs, clams, mussels, rock fish, the blues, and the British Isles and Canadian varieties ... the cray fish, the river fish, the lake varieties ...
 
It is alot of work ... However, I shall re.embark on it ...
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 February 2013 at 15:05
I'm not sure that anything would be served by looking at each species, Dan. But each type certainly makes sense.
 
What I might do, as an installment, is list fishes that can sub for each other. Just need to come up with a method of doing that.
 
I fully intend doing an installment on fileting. But real quick, with fish in the pike family (i.e., Northerns and Musky, primarily) you start differently. Essentially, filet the top of the fish first, using the backbone as a guide. Then set the fish on it's belly and look down at that back cut. The  tips of the Y bones will form a line, flanking the backbone on each side. Use those lines as a guide to cut a filet off each side, outboard of the Ys.
 
The Y bones only extend to the point where the fish starts to narrow down, leading to the tail. At that point, treat it as any other fish, and remove the two filets.
 
When you're done you'll have five pieces of fish. On larger ones you might want to split the back filet, lengthwise, especially if you're going to skin it.
 
It really sounds more complicated than it is. Just takes a fish or three to get the feel of it.
 
You can't help but leave a lot of flesh behind, when fileting pikes. But if you partially cook the carcass you can slip the meat off the bones, and use the flakes for fish cakes, chowders, etc.
 
Although commonly classed with the pikes, walleye are actually not related, and do not have the Y bones. They're fileted like any other normal fish.  FWIW, the preferred size of walleye, for commercial purposes, is 14 inches. The filets from fish that size make perfect portions.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 February 2013 at 16:17
Another great primer, Brook, and in perfect time for spring, which will arrive before too long, even up here!
 
I've been reading with interest and have already learned some important things. Can't wait for more, and I think the fish-type substitution is a great idea.
 
Let me know when you're finished, and I'll sticky it up ~ thanks again!
 
Dan - I've got a pretty good visual on filleting pike and other Esocids; hope it helps:
 
 
 
If you are a visitor and like what you see, please click here and join the discussions in our community!
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A picture is worth a thousand words, Ron. Thanks for posting these, as they illustrate how to carve up the pikes better than any verbal description.
 
BTW, I've been told more than once that pickeral and small Northerns can be scored and deep fried. This will melt most of the Y bones. I have never actually done this, but it might be worth an experiment.
 
 
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Part 3: Breaking Down Round Fish

 

Generally speaking, food fish break down into two types: round fish and flat fish. While they do, in many respects, break down similarly, the methods of doing so differ. Initially we’ll talk about round fish, because they are the most commonly fabricated at home.

 

Fish are amazing creatures, if you think about it. Although there are differences in configuration, they are bodies aerodynamically designed to move efficiently through a thick medium. To do this they are streamlined, and have fins for navigating. Like airplanes, they cannot back up. But unlike aircraft, they have flexible bodies; which means they are much more maneuverable than any aircraft ever built.

 

Putting aside minor differences such as body depth, length-to-width ratios, and so forth, they are, for our purposes, all designed the same. What you have is a body that narrows at the head, tapering down from the gills, followed by a longer section that is more or less the same width and thickness until it tapers down again moving towards the tail. Keep that in mind as we discuss breaking them down into usable parts.

 

Many of these sections are defined by the fish’s skeletal structure. The front taper, for instance, starts just in front of the collar. The tail taper usually begins at the end of the belly cavity, and is identified by how the ribs lay. In practical terms, the vent actually marks the end of the uniform center section. On most species, particularly if you buy it gutted and gilled, you can use the anal fin as the marker.

 

On species that have pin bones, they end at that point. For example, trout and salmon have pin bones that lay every which way in the fish’s “chest.” But they are absent in the tail section. This  means the tail provides clean meat, used to make filets or mock whole fish on larger specimens.

 

The center is further divided, top and bottom, by the ribs and backbone. The top section is the loin and the bottom is the belly. On larger species, such as cod and haddock, the belly is separated from the loins and identified as “flaps” or “lugs.”

 

So, let’s look at the various cuts.

 

A filet is a flat piece of fish, cut from the sides, with all bones removed. The entire side, from collar to tail, is removed in one piece if that’s the only way the fish will be fabricated. Otherwise, only the tail section is fileted, and the balance broken down in other ways.

 

You may have noticed that many filets sold at supermarket fish counters are sort of triangular, with a radical taper that gets thinner as it narrows. That’s because they come from the tail sections. From a quality standpoint there’s nothing wrong with these filets. Cooking them, however, can often present a challenge, because the thinner triangle cooks faster than the thicker part. For most applications, therefore, if you have a choice it’s better to buy a center-cut filet, which tends to be more evenly thick.

 

The loin or loin filet is a solid piece of flesh removed from each side of the backbone. Although the belly flap is sometimes included in this cut, it usually isn’t because that presents problems in even cooking. If you buy just the loin, and the flap is included, I advise cutting it away and using it for other purposes. Because the belly flesh tends to be the oiliest part of any fish, poaching it is, in my opinion, the best use for it. Once poached, remove the skin and any bones, and use the flesh for fish cakes, soups, spreads, or fish pies.

 

Nowadays there is some confusion because the loin chunks are often marketed as steaks. Technically, a steak is a specialized cut, which we’ll discuss later. Reason for the confusion is that the loin is often broken down further into thick slices, resembling beef steaks. Swordfish, for example, is often sold that way.

 

Cheeks, as the name implies, are nuggets of flesh taken from the check. You can locate them by gently pressing down on the head, just under and behind the eyes. The cheeks are found in a cavity surrounded by bone, and you can feel them as a soft spot.

 

Cheeks are considered the most succulent part of any fish, and are a great delicacy. But, frankly, it’s hardly worth recovering them from anything but large fish. You might take the trouble with a whole salmon, for instance. But not with a panfish.

 

True fish steaks used to be more popular than they are, and most fish mongers in the United States no longer carry them. You can ask the monger to cut a whole fish into steaks, or just do it yourself. Steaks are usually cut from larger, oily species, such as salmon, bluefish, king mackerel, and similar varieties.

 

To steak one, lay a gut and gilled fish on its side, with the back away from you. Cut the head away, making that first cut immediately behind the collar. If you discard the collar, shame on you. It’s one of the best tasting parts of the fish, although yielding little in the way of edible flesh. For that reason, collars are often used as an element in a fish dish using other parts as well.

 

After clearing the head, make a series of cuts, straight up and down, through the fish, spacing the cuts an inch to an inch and a half apart. Continue making these cuts until the entire middle section has been divided.

 

There’s no reason you can’t cut the tail into steak-like pieces. Just keep in mind that, because of the taper, each of them will be a different size, which makes portion control something of a problem.

 

If you lay a center-cut steak flat it will appear to be an inverted horseshoe shape, with most of the shoe filled with flesh, and two legs extending downwards.

 

Most recipes for fish steaks use them in that form. This worked ok in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when most fish were overcooked anyway. But for modern tastes that doesn’t work, because the legs get overcooked, particularly when grilling or broiling the steaks. To avoid that, savvy fish fabricators truss them into what are called noisettes.

 

It’s unlikely you’ll ever see a noisette at a fishmonger or seafood counter, because they are a labor-intensive pain in the butt to form. But the advantages, both in cooking and presentation, make the effort worthwhile at home.

 

To make a noisette, extend the opening between the legs up to the backbone. Then start working the flesh off of it, removing all the other bones as you go along. At this point the flesh will look kind of ragged, but don’t worry about it.

 

Next, cut the skin away from the flesh, starting about evenly with where the backbone was, but leaving it attached. Roll one leg up, spiraling it to fill the cavity. Wrap the other leg around it. Then use the flaps of skin to wrap the package. Tie this into an evenly round or oval shape with butchers twine. Don’t pull the string too tightly, as that will distort the fish. You just want enough pressure to hold everything in place.

 

What you now have is a sold disk of fish that will cook evenly. If you’ve cut the tail section into steaks they already will look that way.

 

Curried Halibut Loin

 

2 lbs halibut or other firm-fleshed white fish loin

½ cup butter

4 tsp curry powder

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

¼ cup lemon juice

½ tsp Worcestershire + extra for sprinkling

 

Divide the fish into four equal pieces.

 

Melt the butter in a skillet large enough to hold the fish in one layer. Stir in the curry powder, salt, and pepper. Gradually add the lemon juice and Worcestershire and simmer ten minutes over low heat.

 

Put the fish pieces in the skillet and cook them two minutes. Turn the pieces, sprinkle them lightly with additional Worcestershire, and cook them, covered, for 4-5 minutes (more if pieces are more than ¾ inch thick), until they flake easily when tested with a fork.

 

Serves four.

 

But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 February 2013 at 20:57
   Nice piece, Brook. The Curried Halibut sounds simple...and amazing.  Thanks!

   On the subject of Steaks, specifically Salmon Steaks.  I wanted to start smoking some thick salmon steaks.  I was thinking about starting very simple...and then branch out with the flavors after I get the procedure down well.  I'm thinking basic brine then smoke with alder or oak.  Starting the temp at 100f for an hour, then bumping the temp in steps...up to 180f...making the total time around 6 hours...and an internal temp of 140f.  Hmmm...maybe I'll smoke some of these and some shell on shrimp at home.  Then bring them to work for lunch and have the Gumbo Z'herbs for dinner.


   Any tips advice on smoking some salmon steaks?

(here's some pics from Calumet Fisheries, Chicago)

   

    Thanks Brook.  Thanks Tas for the pics...that's essentially how I do it.  Although I don't separate the tail piece...this may be an idea that works well.  Thanks!
Enjoy The Food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2013 at 06:24
I've smoked whole sides of salmon, Dan, but never steaks. So anything I say would be a guess. 
 
That said, your procedure sounds about right. Six hours might be a bit long, but you won't know until you give it a try. Make sure you let them dry enough, after brining, for a good pelicle to form and you should be OK.
 
If there are leftover (yeah, right!) try this:
 
Smoked Salmon Spread
 
2 cups flaked smoked salmon
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1 tbls sweet Sherry
2 tbls minced fresh parsley
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp white pepper
 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp lime juice
Salt to taste
 
Combine the ingredients well and chill it. Serve with crostinia, black bread, or pita triangles.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2013 at 09:37
Dan - I've got some good info, and photos, from the same source as the pike-filleting procedure posted above. It outlines the process very thoroughly and easily - the photos are very nice, too!
 
Give me a day or three to get the book and scan the photo. If I don't get it posted in the next week or so, please do remind me, because I tend to get distracted and absent-minded....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2013 at 11:38
Enjoy The Food!
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