Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book – Part 8
The chapter on Fish and Sea Food reads:
“Lake Trout, deep-sea mackerel, New England clams, Florida pompano and shellfish from Chesapeake Bay – surely the people of a country bounded by two oceans, great lakes and a gulf were meant to like fish. Today, refrigeration carries the catch, icy-fresh, to all inland America; and ‘Oyster R in season’ the year round as frozen food.
Adventures almost as breath-taking as that of the man who ate the first raw oyster still reward those courageous enough to try new varieties of sea food. You may never eat an octopus and never really care for caviar or herring. But how about deviled crabs, shad roe, flounder, scallops and smelts? How about new ways to serve the familiar salmon, tuna, shrimp and cod?
Season, locality and method of cookery must be considered when buying fish. Modern refrigeration and the quick-freezing process make many fish available out of season and in localities remote from the source of supply. Salted, smoked and canned products offer additional variety. In a whole fish look for bright bulging eyes; fresh bright red gills; firm elastic flesh which springs back when lightly pressed. In fish which are cut, boned and otherwise prepared before sale; freshness is best determined by general appearance and odor. The flesh should appear firm, elastic and moist; the fish should smell fresh.
Cuts of Fish: A FILLET is a side of fish or section of side cut length wise, with bones and usually skin removed. Its thickness will depend on size and variety of fish. The fish most commonly filleted are: cod, haddock, mackerel, perch, halibut, whiting and flounder, often called sole. The true sole is an English fish; in this country certain kinds of flounder go by the name sole.
A STEAK is cut crosswise from a whole large fish, scaled or skinned. A steak is usually ¾ to 1 inch thick. Commonly used steaks are salmon, halibut, swordfish, bass and cod.
Amount to Buy: Allow about ½ pound of whole fish or ¹/³ pound of fillet or steak for each serving.
Quick-Frozen Fish: Quick-frozen packaged fillets and steaks are read to use with or without thawing as directed on the package.
The marketman will scale and clean the fish ready for use; he will skin it and remove fin bones and large bones if requested. In that case a whole fish need only be washed before cooking; cut-up fish should be wiped with a damp cloth. If the fish is frozen it may first be thawed just enough to melt the ice.
The following directions for preparing fish are for the benefit of the homemaker confronted with fish direct from the water.
Scaling: Hold the fish by the tail and with a short heavy knife scrape against the scales. Do this outdoors if possible, since the scales will fly, or hold the fish under cold running water while scaling. Insert a sharp pointed knife along each side at the base of the fins to free the fin bones; then pull out fins with the small fin bones attached.
Cleaning: If the fish is to be cooked whole, make a small opening under the gills, just large enough so that entrails may be removed. If it is to be but up it may be split along the bottom from head to tail. head and tail may be removed or not as desired. Wash the scaled and cleaned fish with cold water and wipe dry.
Skinning: Skinning is not usually desirable because the skin helps to retain flavour and juices and is often necessary to keep the delicate fish from falling apart during cooking. Some fillets, however, such as cod and flounder, are usually skinned. Have the fish scaled and cleaned, but do not remove heat and tail. Cut out the fins. Slit the skin down the back and underside from head to tail. Cut through the skin all around the head. Using a pair of pliers, grasp the skin near the head and pull off from head to tail on each side, working carefully to aoid the flesh. With a flat fish it may be easier to work from tail to head. Steaks and other cuts of fish may be skinned by loosening at one end and carefully stripping from the flesh. Cut off head and tail after skinning.
Boning: Clean the fish, splitting it on the underside all the way from the head to tail so that it will lie flat. With a sharp knife cut close to the bone all along each side and remove the backbone. Pick out small bones with tweezers. Some fish have so many small bones that it is not feasible to attempt to remove all. Fillets are prepared y separating the two length wise halves of boned fish. These may be skinned if desired, but for some fish, such as haddock, mackerel and perch, it is preferable to leave the skin on to hold the meat together during cooking. Head, tail, and all small bones should be removed.
Using the Trimmings: Unless the fish is to be poached, a fish stock my be made from the trimmings – the head, tail, fins and bones. Place in a saucepan with salted water to cover;cover and simmer about 30 minutes. Strain and use for soups and sauces.
Storing Fish: Fresh fish should be kept in the coldest storage space in the refrigerator, well wrapped with paper to prevent the fish odor from spreading to other foods. If the fish is not to be used soon, it may be lightly sprinkled with salt and pepper. If it is to be thawed before cooking it should b exposed to room temperature no longer than absolutely necessary. Salt fish and light smoked fish require cool air but not necessarily refrigeration, except in warm weather.
The chapter has 40 pages for fish dishes, including shellfish.
I am very excited about being at home for the variety of wonderful fesh fish available that I know how to prepare. I was not very adventurous while living on Mauritius with the fish available as there was a lot of very colourful skinned fish which I have been taught is poisonous so I was nervous to buy it and it was also extremely expensive so I only occasionally bought snapper and Capitaine which I pan fried in a little butter and olive oil.