Monday, 9 July 2007
This is by way of being a corollary to the post recently about removing the wishbone in order to make life much easier when dealing with poultry. In the same way, this is a brief description of how to fillet a cooked fish, so that you don't have to watch your guests fighting with mouthfuls of bones, and, worse, having to concentrate on the mechanics of rendering their fish bonelessly edible to the detriment of their enjoyment of food, wine and conversation!
The process for a flat fish, like Sole is as follows:
1. With a couple of forks remove the fin edges which run along the sides of the fish, there's little meat in these and a lot of bones. Remove and discard them.
2. Again with two forks, start at the tail end. Push the tines of the forks one left and the other right of the spine and ease the flesh away from the centre. Work towards the head, pushing the fillets to the edge of the plate until the spine, tail and head are completely exposed.
3. Remove the spine, tail and head - you should be able to do this in one go - and there you are, push the fillets back together and the fish is ready to be served!
For a Bass or similar non-flat fish, proceed as follows:
When the fish is cooked, it makes life easier to transfer it to a large flat hot plate or tray. It also helps to have a plate for the bones you remove.
1. Remove any fins from the sides, and the dorsal(back) fin by dragging it and any bones attached to it away from the body with the edge of a knife. Put the bones on the debris plate
2. With the fish still on its side, find the join between the upper and lower fillet. If necessary remove a little - or if you prefer all - the skin to find it. Gently run a blunt knife along the join. Slip a knife or pallet knife under the upper fillet and gently ease it off, turning it skin side down. There may be some bones attached to the upper, dorsal edge. Remove them. If the flesh does not come away from the bones easily, the fish could do with a couple more minutes cooking until it does.
3. Run the knife under the lower fillet. More than likely the long rib bones which form the stomach cavity will be attached to this piece when you turn it skin side down. Pick these bones off with the point of a knife or fork. Remove the exposed backbone, head and tail in one piece. Remove the stomach bones as before and check the upper edge for remain dorsal bones.
4. The fillets are now ready for serving. Even if the fillets have cooled, serving them on very hot plates will heat them up again.
My preferred way of cooking Sea Bass, as long as it is very fresh, is merely to make a parcel of baking foil, buttered on the inside, with the fish sealed inside the parcel, and bake it for exactly half an hour in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees C. This is a method I adapted from Prue Leith, but I don't bother with her addition of fresh rosemary and slices of Lime - completely pointless, in practice. What does work well, though, is to let a large Anchovy fillet fall to pieces in a couple of ounces of butter you have warming gently on the stove, and then spoon this over the fillets once they've been plated. The flavour-hit is excellent!
Risotto of Red Onion and Sage
Rabbit in Garlic, served with braised Lettuce
Fresh Figs in Cointreau, with Vanilla Cream.