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Gettin Fishy With It - Learning how to with fish

Discussion in 'Food and Drink' started by Wagner the Wehrwolf, Sep 3, 2014.

  1. Wagner the Wehrwolf

    Wagner the Wehrwolf Founding Member

    I don't know if this should go under Kitchen Knife or here?

    If allowed I'd like to keep this as a thread for me to discuss "learning fish."

    I grew up fishing so cleaning and prepping things like blue gill and Lake Erie perch is no big deal. Except those fish we just gutted, cleaned and pan fried whole, no filets. This year I have decided to try to incorporate more fish at home for dinners. The problem here is that I have a rule about living inland and only eating fresh fish (I don't trust the local grocery. Most of what they have is frozen anyway). Only thing fresh here is trout. BUT, I can drive about three hours and get pretty fresh fish.

    I'm starting with pre-cut fish and working up to fabricating myself. So bear with me please. I started with salmon steaks, and Amberjack steaks. That was pretty straight forward.

    Tonight I tried red snapper. First thing I learned was that 3 filets is a hell of a lot more than three portions! I need to portion these things out next time when I get home and then freeze.

    The second thing I learned is check for scales. I assumed since I bought filets they were already scaled. Well mostly. I guess those electric scalers leave a few behind.

    Third thing I learned was I THOUGHT my knives were sharp. That is until I tried cutting through the flesh and through the skin. Whoa! That stuff is tough. Time to hit the stones I guess.

    Now my first question. I learned these filets are NOT boneless. I found a row of bones running the length of the fish about a third up from what I am guessing is the bottom (belly) of the filet. I could not pull them out like salmon pin bones. I ended up cutting along the bones the length of the filet and removing those bones in a thin strip of meat. That left me with one skinny filet and one wide filet. Is that correct technique?

    I still have some sea bass, arctic char, and Spanish mackerel filets in the freezer so I am sure I will have a lot more questions. Then wait until I am brave enough to buy a whole fish!

  2. Yep you slice close to the belly to remove these bones. There are a few vids by maxium that show this. Also if you have not already get a deba. I got mine after watching one vid. Waiting for that big catch.
  3. Andre

    Andre Founding Member

    Just buy a whole fish, and dive in. It'll be ugly for sure, but edible. You can pull snapper pins with pliers instead of tweezers, but by cutting it instead of pulling it you discovered a modified version of the v-cut used on drums, porgies, tilefish, and others with hard to pull pins. I have spent a lot of time doing fish duty so I can answer specific questions, as long as the fish can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, or is pretty common in fresh water. Hit me up with the specifics of the fish and I can give you some pointers.
  4. John Fout

    John Fout Founding Member

    The worst part about living inland... the biggest fish I had access to were 8 pound walleye. Mostly 2-3 pounders. 20 pound fish were sloppy at first but I'm getting better.
    Just dive in and watch others!
  5. Check out this video from Rick T. He has killer knife skill videos. Stripers are some of my favorite fish, and a few times a year we fish for them off Cape Cod. I can't cut as fast as Rick, but this is essentially how I fillet. To your question on bones, look how well he works along the ribs to separate the fillet. Also, important to 'round' the fillet and score the skin.

  6. Wagner the Wehrwolf

    Wagner the Wehrwolf Founding Member

    Thanks guys. I watched a few videos specific to red snapper, two by French style chefs and one by Jon Broida. In all three videos I did not see where they left the line of bones in like I saw. This makes me wonder if the difference isn't between fish market prep versus restaurant kitchen prep. I did try yanking those bones out with needle nosed pliers but no go. That's why I decided to cut them out. I think I will get some real fish pliers from Jon though.

    Seems like there is a lot of waste in these videos for the sake of aesthetics. But I guess that would be important in a restaurant. Less so at home I think.

    Andre, my next trip to the Big City I will pick up a whole fish or two and have it. I'll try to snap some pics to better illustrate questions I may have. I don't think I'm ready for a deba just yet though. I feel like I need to get some more basic basics down first. That and I steer away from single bevels.
  7. Andre

    Andre Founding Member

    . That and I steer away from single bevels.

    I see what you did there!

    You can do the technique with anything you won't chip, it's just a lot easier with a Deba.

    Practice makes perfect, and you can still eat your mistakes!
  8. Wagner the Wehrwolf

    Wagner the Wehrwolf Founding Member

    Well if I NEED a deba, I WILL get one. We'll see.
  9. John Fout

    John Fout Founding Member

    A thick german/french knife can will work. I used a 9" Mercer all through culinary school on the big fish. The guy training me on my new job uses a smaller Forshner Cimeter. (I'm wanting a deba...)
    If you're wanting to try a cimiter I may know a guy wanting to get rid of one...

    You can also use a boning knife or Rapala for all of it but it will take longer.
  10. Wagner the Wehrwolf

    Wagner the Wehrwolf Founding Member

    Yep. I'm following your deba thread with interest. Just not sure one is the right knife for me. I'll try a mix of what I've got (plenty to chose from) and see what works. I do prefer to use the correct tool for a given job, so if that means a deba, so be it.

    I think one of the videos I watched the chef was fabricating with a French knife. I was surprised by that but maybe shouldn't be.
  11. Since when does need play into it :)
  12. Andre

    Andre Founding Member

    A heavier sab will do you fine.
  13. John Fout

    John Fout Founding Member

    I know he has one of those hahaha. That Chef Au Ritz you picked up off of me will work for sure.
  14. Wagner the Wehrwolf

    Wagner the Wehrwolf Founding Member

    :) yeah I have a few. :)
  15. Wagner the Wehrwolf

    Wagner the Wehrwolf Founding Member

    So in the meantime before my next trip to the Big City, should I get one of those fancy fish scalers like JKI sells? When I was a kid and cleaned my catch I just used a spoon.
  16. John Fout

    John Fout Founding Member

    The fancy scalers are like attaching multiple spoons together and spacing them out.
    I've seen steal wool used lightly as well as green scrubbers.

    Most of the fish I get in have been de scaled but I wipe down the fish with a wet rag to avoid loose scales on ny board. If you are leaving the skin on yes scale them. If you are cutting the skin off you can sometimes wet away with mot de scaling the fish.
  17. Wagner the Wehrwolf

    Wagner the Wehrwolf Founding Member

    Sunday I was in the big city and brought back two whole but frozen pompano. Today I filleted them, first time I've cut a fish in probably 30 years.

    Special thanks to Theory and his Breaking Down Snapper video. I couldn't have done it without you.

    I went with my stainless version of a Sabatier instead of one of my old carbons. :)

    So here it is:

    I think I did OK for what is really my first time. I still feel like there's a lot of meat left behind but maybe I just need to accept that is the compromise to filleting rather than cooking with bone in.

    I struggled with skinning the fillets.

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