Monday, March 1, 2010

On cooking fish

I was thinking about the local fondness for 'flake'(aka shark) -- which is never going to top my list of great fish experiences. It's perfectly edible, relatively bland, and of course, large. I grilled two fillets of a smallish Silver Trevalley the meal before last (a pasta with smoked clams and garden veg last night) and it was one of those pieces of fish where you explore just under the pelvic bones just in case just in case there is just one more morsel of fish left - total additions to flavour - salt, olive oil, fresh black pepper. I figure one of the big issues with fish is that that 'window'in which a piece of fish (particularly thin fillets) is nearly perfectly cooked - not over-not under - just at the taste apogee is tiny. Maybe 30 seconds. Even a fussy-steak gourmet has probably a minute between the edges of 'acceptable' with perfect 30 seconds in the middle. That's a tight margin that restaurants almost never get right, and a lot of home cooks overshoot too. What something like flake, or even baked fish (which conserves moisture, although texture and collagen breakdown continues)does is to allow a bigger 'window'. It's why I prefer grilling (fire, top or bottom heat - all quite different) or even frying fish to baking, steaming, boiling - because you're in a lot more precise control (IMO that strong fishy taste BTW relates to collagen - just as joints of meat with bone and lots of connective tissue tend to be gelatinous and more powerfully flavoured). Anyway, to grill WELL with the kind of fish that needs to be JUST cooked - give me something where I can SEE the flesh, where the fillet is a fairly even thickness. I like a ridged griddle pan, and contrary to most fish cooking instructions cook the fish flesh side down first, on quite high heat for thin fillets (thicker the fillet, lower the ideal heat to allow the middle to cook before the outside is charcoal). The skin always contracts when you cook it. If the flesh underneath is mostly cooked the meat pulls away from flesh. If it isn't... the flesh shape is distorted. It bends and the even thickness of the fillet is not even any more. The skin does protect the flesh from drying and extreme heat, but a thin film of olive oil does that quite well, and you can- if need be - use that to carry flavours into the meat. Some fish benefit from marianade, but I always like to grill new species just plain to 'get' the basic flavours to know what must or can be done.

Erhm. You do get the idea that I am quite fanatical about cooking, especially seafood. I'm just glad to have all of this wonderful fresh new food to experiment on. And a guinea-wife who will try my experiments. Why has she turned purple?

Oh, I have a new wine to add to my like very much, especially with grilled fish. And it's a riesling - which after my formative younger experiences with elderly German riesling was something I thought came out of the nether end of cats. It's a Queen Adelaide from South Australia, and I have to re-assess my liking for white wine and riesling in particular.


  1. Oh, yes, the Queen Adelaide riesling is always a good one. Flake is generally what you get in the generic "fish and chips", although sometimes it's cod.

    I'm glad you're enjoying the new experiences, despite some of your more interesting and hair raising ones!

  2. Have you tried 'Planking' Fish?

    Take a flat piece of wood 1/2 inch thick and large enough to hold the Fish. Soak in water at least 1 hr 2hr to overnight is better.

    Place a Fairly thick Fillet on the wood and place on lowest rack above coals. Allow to cook covered. 30-40 min.

    Partially Steamed, Baked and Smoked.

  3. - and then you eat the plank? ;-) I've read about IIRc a Finnish way of cooking trout that involved something similar - you nailed the fish to the plank and cooked it side on the flames. But no, never heard of that one. Where do they do that?

  4. Kate -hair-raising follows me around. Really. I don't know what I do that events always turn into a circus as soon as we're there. I am conservative timid soul... But yes, loving the new stuff- just wish I had more time for it