Thursday, December 29, 2011

filet your fish

So far I’m failing in my endeavor to become a beach bum. It’s been an insane month of commuting, holiday errands and crafting, and of course tons of cooking. I’ve also been setting up a new blog site which is coming soon… : )

I realized that while I cook a lot and have years of professional and practical cooking experience to share, that I’m relieved to be out of a professional kitchen for now. I don’t have to be one of the boys! So anyway, the new site will be coming soon with plenty of cooking, but I’m also allowing myself some freedom to continue reclaiming my former girlie.

In the meantime, I’ve been fileting salmon. There’s been prime rib roasting and smoking, hors d’eouvres, and cholesterol-reducing meals in between, but I found myself cleaning up quite a few salmon filets over the past few weeks. It’s a handy skill to have, so here it is…

Start by pulling bones. They run down the length of the fatter part of the filet. I run my left index finger along to feel for them and then pull them out with my right hand. Tweezers come in handy but usually you can get them with your fingers.


Why yes, that IS glittery holiday nail polish! I have barely worn any nail polish for the last 12 years because it’s against regulations if you’re cooking commercially. It’s downright fun to wear nail polish! But I digress. The more noteable color is of course the rich salmony, corally color of the wild salmon (as opposed to pale pink). I eat certain farmed salmon as well, but love the flavor of wild.


Once you’ve pulled out the pin bones and double checked by running your finger along one more time, you’re ready to take the skin off. Start by taking the skinny tail end and making an initial incision through the flesh to the skin. The knife for this job is a sharp, long thin slicer.


Note the angle of my knife. It’s at about 45 degrees to the board so that hopefully I’ll remove all of the skin but without taking any flesh off with it. It’s a fine line to find, but you never want the knife going straight ahead, parallel to the board. You always want it angled towards the board.


Then grab the 3rd very important tool for this job. A paper towel. I’m a rightie so I hold the knife in my right hand, kind of backhanded, and then use the paper towel in my left hand to hold the tail of the fish. The towel is critical in helping grip the slippery tiny little end of the filet while guiding the knife through the much heavier part of the filet. Both hands are going to do an equal amount of work. Actually the right hand will stay quite quiet, and the left hand will do more moving. Of course, do a switcharooni if you’re left handed.


The trick now is to maintain the angle and direction of the knife while using the other hand to pull and fishtail the filet back and forth. It’s more an act of pulling the filet along the blade than trying to push the knife down the filet. You’ll adjust the knife as you go and as the filet gets heavier towards the fatter end, but keep the tension and waggling back and forth with the paper towel hand.


Ta da! boneless, skinless and almost ready for barbie. Now to tackle one of my pet peeves. The grey fat line on the back. It bothers me almost as much as getting cold bread with cold butter to order salmon in a restaurant and find that grey fat line on the bottom. So go ahead and flip the filet over, survey your work and grab a smaller knife to slice off that grey matter.


That little bit of silver left over isn’t too big a deal. I trim it down a little, but primarily work on the grey fat in the middle of the filet. Then I portioned it into smaller filets and marinated it in some safron tea with lemon zest. Once I seared it, I brushed with a compound butter of lemon zest. Delish.

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