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Techniques - Fish and Shellfish

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
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Fish and Shellfish

Clean a round fish

While most fish you buy have already been gutted, there may be occasions when you need to know how to do this yourself


Through the stomach

On a clean work surface, place the fish on its side. Holding it firmly with a fish knife, small chef’s knife, or kitchen scissors, make a shallow incision in the underside of the fish, cutting from just below the fin to the head.

Pull out the viscera (everything in the stomach cavity), using your hands. Using kitchen scissors, cut off the gills, being careful not to cut yourself, since they can be very sharp.

Rinse the cavity with cold, running water to remove any remaining blood or viscera. Pat dry with paper towels. The fish can now be scaled and trimmed.


Through the gills

First use kitchen scissors to snip off the gills at the base of the head. They are very sharp, so hook your index finger around them to pull them out.

Put your fingers into the hole left by the removed gills, and pull out the viscera.

Using kitchen scissors, make a small slit in the stomach at the ventral (anal) opening. Use your fingers to pull out any remaining viscera. Rinse with cold, running water, and pat dry. The fish can now be scaled and trimmed.


Scale and trim fish

Use either a fish scaler, or the blunt side of a chef’s knife to scrape off the scales if you plan to eat the skin

Lay the fish on top of a clean work surface, covered with a plastic bag or newspaper. Holding the fish by the tail, scrape off the scales from the tail toward the head. Turn the fish over, and scrape off the scales on the other side.

Using kitchen scissors, cut off and remove the dorsal (back) fin, the belly fins, and the two fins on either side of the head. If desired, trim the tail with the scissors, cutting it into a neat “v” shape.


Fillet and skin a fish

There is no need to scale a fish beforehand if you plan to skin the fish fillets

Gut the fish through the stomach. Then, using a large chef’s knife, cut into the head end, just behind the gills, cutting at an angle, until you reach the backbone. Cut the fish down the length of the back and ribcage. Turn the fish over and repeat.

Place the fillet, skin-side down, on a clean work surface. Insert a fish knife into the flesh near the tail end. Turn the blade at a slight angle, and cut through the flesh just to the skin. Turn the blade of the knife almost flat, and grab hold of the end of the skin. Holding the knife firmly, close to the skin, pull the skin away, cutting it off the fillet.


Bone a flatfish

Popular flatfish varieties include flounder, sole, and halibut

Skin the fish. Lay it, skinned-side up, on a board, and using a filleting knife, cut down the center, through the flesh just to the backbone. Free the fillet on one side by cutting horizontally to the outer edge of the fish. Turn, and repeat to free the other fillet.

Slide the knife blade under the backbone to loosen the bone from the flesh. Use kitchen scissors to snip the backbone from the head and tail ends, as well as the center, to cut the backbone into pieces.

Lift the backbone pieces from the fish, cutting them from the flesh with the knife where necessary, and discard. Before stuffing, be sure to check for, and remove any remaining bones.


Skinning a flatfish

To hold the shape of the fish, the white-skinned side is left attached to the flesh. The dark skin is usually removed because it is tough. Using kitchen scissors, trim the fins from the belly and back, leaving about 1/4in (5mm) still attached to the fish. Place the fish white-side up, and make a small cut at the tail end to separate the dark skin from the flesh. Insert the knife between the flesh and the dark skin. Keeping the knife blade flat against the skin, grab the skin at the tail end firmly with your other hand, and pull to separate the flesh neatly away from the skin. Discard the dark skin.


Bone a round fish

Once gutted, scaled, and trimmed, a round fish can be boned through the stomach and stuffed for cooking

Open up the fish by making an incision from the tail to the head. Using the blade of your knife, loosen the ribcage (transverse bones) from the flesh on the top side, then turn the fish over to loosen the transverse bones from the flesh on the other side.

Using kitchen scissors, snip the backbone from the head and tail ends. Starting at the tail, peel the backbone away from the flesh and discard. The transverse bones will come away with the backbone. Before stuffing, be sure to check for, and remove any remaining bones left in the flesh.


Bake en papillote

The term en papillote is French for “cooked in paper,” which keeps the fish nice and moist by steaming it in its own juices

Cut a heart shape 2in (5cm) longer than twice the size of the fish out of parchment paper. Brush the paper with oil and place a piece of fish on one half of the heart with herbs and vegetables. Drizzle with white wine.

Fold over the other half of the paper and twist the edges to seal the package. Repeat for the other pieces of fish. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Place the packages on a preheated baking sheet and bake for 12–15 minutes, until the packages are puffed up and browned.


Remove the meat from a crab

Shown below is a common European crab, but the Dungeness crab is prepared in much the same way

Place the cooked crab on its back on a chopping board, and firmly twist the claws and legs to break them from the body.

Lift the triangular tail flap on the underside of the body (the apron), twist it off, and discard.

Crack and separate the central section from the shell. Lift off the shell and remove any white meat from it using a teaspoon or fork.

Use your fingers to remove the gills (“dead man’s fingers”) from the central body section and discard. Also discard the intestines on each side of the shell, or clinging to the body.

Crack or cut the central body section into several large pieces. Using a lobster pick or skewer, dig out all the white meat and reserve in a bowl. Remove and discard any remaining pieces of membrane.

Remove the soft brown meat from the shell using a teaspoon, and reserve with the white meat. (There is no brown meat in Dungeness crab.) Remove and discard the head sac. If there is any roe in the shell, it too can be reserved.

To crack the shell on each leg, use poultry shears or the blunt side of a heavy knife. Remove the meat in one piece, using a lobster pick. Add to the white meat.

With lobster crackers or a nutcracker, crack the shell of the claws. Remove and reserve the white meat, and discard any bits of remaining membrane.


Prepare mussels

Mussels must be scrubbed and debearded before use

In the sink, scrub the mussels under cold, running water. Rinse away grit or sand, and remove any barnacles with a small, sharp knife. Discard any mussels that are open.

To remove the “beard,” pinch the dark stringy piece between your fingers, pull it away from the mussel shell, and discard. (Farmed mussels do not have beards.)


Open scallops

Scallops can sometimes be bought in the shell

Hold the scallop firmly, flat-side up and using a thin, flexible knife, keep the blade close to the top shell of the scallop, and slide the knife around to sever the muscle.

Run the knife along the bottom shell to detach the scallop. Cut off and discard the viscera and fringe-like membrane. Rinse scallop and coral before use.


Shuck oysters

When shucking oysters, practice makes perfect. Use a towel to protect your hands from the oysters’ sharp shells

Holding the oyster flat in a towel will help prevent the knife from accidentally slipping. Insert the tip of an oyster knife into the hinge to open the shell. Keep the blade close to the top of the shell so the oyster is not damaged. Cut the muscle and lift off the top shell.

Detach the oyster from the bottom shell by carefully sliding the blade of your knife beneath the oyster. Take care not to cut the oyster or to spill out the delicious brine. The oysters can be served raw on the half shell (but be sure to scrub the shells thoroughly before opening), or removed and cooked.


Open clams

Clams must be cleaned well, as they tend to be very sandy

Discard any open clams. Place the clam in a towel to protect fingers, insert the knife tip and twist to force the shells apart.

Sever the muscle and release clam. If serving raw on the half shell, snap off the top shell. For soft shell clams, remove dark membrane.


Peel and devein shrimp

The gritty intestinal veins of large shrimp are usually removed

Remove the head and legs by pulling them off with your fingers, then peel away the shells, saving them for stock, if you like.

Using the tip of a paring knife or toothpick, hook the vein where the head was and gently pull it away from the body. Rinse and pat dry.

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