Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Adventures with flounder

First: I apologize for the lack of photojournalism to accompany this post. It's hard to take pictures when your hands are covered with fish guts. I'll try to do better next time.

(Also: that is a stock photo of a flounder. The ones I got were lighter in color, a couple of pounds each, and a little prettier.)

I picked up my first delivery from my fish CSA, which consisted of three whole flounder, a couple of pounds each. When I say whole, I mean whole. They were so fresh they hadn't been gutted or scaled. So I had a project ahead of me when I got them home.

Here's what I learned:
1. Lock the cats up first. (I didn't.)
2. You can't freeze whole fish with the guts still inside. You have to clean them first.
3. I didn't bother to descale them.
4. Flounder guts are not actually in the middle. They're off to one side, immediately under the head. Basically their guts live in their chin.
5. My super-sharp professional knives weren't up to the task of cutting through fish scales and skin, which is actually very tough. What did work: my super-heavy-duty professional kitchen scissors. (Also called kitchen shears.)
6. Between my impromptu biology lesson ("Where are the guts?...What are THOSE? Oh, lungs.") and figuring out that scissors worked better than the knives, it was not a pretty or clean butchering process. Just as well I didn't take any pictures.
7. Fish decapitation is very easy with good scissors.

So, in summation: with whole fish, first cut off the head. Find and remove internal organs. Snip off fins/gills if necessary (not necessary with flounder).

Then, since I had three cleaned fish in front of me, I figured I might as well roast them all at once and eat them later.

It's also best if you clean fish the night before trash day, so that fish remains can go immediately outside, and not stink up your house any more than it already is.

I didn't do anything fancy to the fish. I put some olive oil in a roasting dish, added the fish, flipped them to coat on both sides with the oil, and baked them for about 20-25 minutes at 400, until the skin was crispy and the meat was opaque.

After they cooled, I peeled off the skin, removed the remaining bones (and tails), and put the remaining meat in the fridge. I predict fish tacos in my immediate future.

Then I took the three fish heads (minus guts, of course--those got thrown away) and the bones/skin/leftovers and made a big batch of fish stock. I threw it all into a big pot, added a roughly chopped carrot and a couple stalks of celery, two big glugs of white wine, and maybe four cups of water, and let that cook down for a couple hours. When it cooled, I strained it and popped it right into the freezer.

I'll continue sharing fish butchering stories and fish recipes as the CSA continues!

1 comment:

  1. If you have enough room in your freezer, you can stuff the guts into a trashbag or trash container of some sort (old coffee can perhaps) and put that in the freezer until you're ready to get rid of it.

    Flounder are especially nice to filet if you're serving people not partial to the carcass or cooking in a fashion where a filet makes more sense. Just remember that with most flounder over 12" you can get good meat from both sides of the fish.