04 June 2005

How to Clean a Fish

Subject: Oh, for shit's sake, Dr. No--get yourself
From: The_Unnamed
Date: Jun 4 2005 4:54PM

to a reservation and get some culture, will ya? Here I am only a 1/8th blood and I've got to teach you how to cut up fish??

First, you need a razor sharp knife. Blade length will depend on fish size. Since you probably have puny little salmon where you live, 6" or 8" is fine.

Before you do anything else, including cut the head off (ignore that Nightengale person), stick the point of the knife in the anal opening and neatly slice the belly up to the gills. It doesn't particularly matter if you cut something inside; as long as you clean and wash the fish immediately it won't affect the taste. Most of the guts will scope out easily with your hand, but you'll have to cut (or tear) the gullet to sever it from the head end and the intestine to sever it from the anal end.

If your fish has a large mass of dark red bumpy material, those are eggs. (You have a lady fish--do I have to tell you that, too?) You can throw the eggs away like a stupid white man, or you can cure them and eat them like a smart Indian. They also make killer salmon and trout bait.

Once the loose guts are out, look along the backbone seam of the gut cavity. You'll see a dark reddish mass running most of its length. This is the kidney. You want to scrap and dig it out as best you can. (Thumbnail works best.) Because some of it grows in the hollows between vertebrae you probably can't get it all, if the fish is of any size. Don't worry about it; a small amount left behind won't affect anything.

Now rinse your fish off. It's probably rather slimy after all this handling. After you rinse it, pat it dry. Resharpen your knife. Get an old washcloth or potholder--something with a rough surface. It has to be dry. Using the cloth for grip, press down firmly on the fish's side while your slice the meat from it, starting at the tail and moving toward the head. You want to keep your knife blade in contact with the backbone, and slightly tilted toward the belly. Use tiny sawing motions, but if your knife is as sharp as it should be, you won't need much sawing (which damages the meat).

If successful, you will cut all of the meat off the side in one slab, leaving only a thin layer over the main ribs. Repeat for the other side. Clean your two fillets off; throw the rest of the carcase away (or in the garden, or whatever--I never learned that Squanto stuff).

If you're really Indian, you'll smoke your fish over an alder fire, but that's probably too much culture for you to handle in one day. Just go barbecue your fillets like a white guy. Sprinkle with lemon pepper, put in a couple slices of lemon and one of onion, wrap it all in heavy foil, and poach the fish in the various juices, usually somewhere around 30 minutes, depending on thickness. Do not overcook! Take if off as soon as the middle thickness of the fillet loses the translucent appearance of raw fish and becomes an opaque pink. Open a couple of beers and talk about baseball. That's what white guys do when they're barbecuing.

Come back when you're ready for another lesson in how to be Injun.

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