Tuesday, August 2, 2011
A roly poly fish head smiles back at me after having been converted into fish stock.
Some time back, I wrote about my culinary adventures with fish heads.
Most folks in this part of the world want as little as possible to do with fish heads. She Who Must Be Obeyed fits into that category... yet, surprisingly, she has, of late, developed a taste for grilled hamachi kama, the collar of the yellowtail tuna. It’s as close as you can get to a fish head without actually getting the head itself. Delicious, low in calories, and packed with omega-3 fatty acids, it’s one of those underappreciated delicacies that serious Japanese food aficionados know about.
A couple of weeks ago, we ordered the hamachi kama at a wonderful little hole-in-the-wall place in Orlando - Sushi En - and were immediately treated like family. It’s as though we were in on the Big Secret.
Today, as I was casting about for something to prepare for dinner, I recalled that Whole Foods had whole bluefish for sale for something like $3.69 the pound. Bluefish! It’s popular up north, a veritabobble staple in the New York area, but if you ask for bluefish around here people will look at you like you just sprouted a second head. It can have an assertive personality, and it tends to be oily... both positives in my Fish-Book.
I selected a modest-sized example, just shy of two pounds, and asked the fishmonger to fillet it for me. (No sense getting fish blood all over my kitchen counters.) He did so, expertly, as I watched. I also asked him whether he made a decent living selling fish; he told me he worked for scale.
The fillets ended up in the oven, one with Old Bay seasoning, the other with smoked paprika, both misted with olive oil. Fifteen minutes at 375°F and they were perfectly done: tender, flaky, and surprisingly mild. But I also had the rest of the fish-carcass to deal with. Why not make fish stock?
Into a saucepan went the head and bones of the fish, along with a few handfuls of chopped celery, a diced onion, a smashed head of garlic, a few whole peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a small heap of parsley stems. Two hours on the simmer, strain and cool, and Bob’s your uncle: Fish stock!
It will make a fine chowder, that stock... and meanwhile, that fish head was mighty tasty. Lots of meat in there if you’re willing to dig for it. Eat them up, yum!
Postscript: Sissy Willis, in the comments, says “It’s the eyes that get me...”
For eye-bugging delight, you’ve gotta love shrimp heads, ’cause the eyes are not just staring at you, they’re on convenient little stalks. Lookit: