Did you know that the shape and size of the fish you catch determines everything about its’ preparation from the cleaning, gutting, de-boning and filleting?
Large round fish which consist of species such as cod, bluefish, mackerel and trout house entrails in the belly region, whereas flat fish entrails are found in the cavity located directly behind the fish’s head.
This article will discuss how to prep a fresh, large, round fish for cooking applications.
My grandmother was an expert at this procedure. She used a special board that resembled a clipboard. With grandma’s specially adapted fish board she would just use the clip to secure the fish by the tail onto the board.
If you are not as lucky as she was to have such a board, a regular wooden cutting board wrapped with newspaper will have to do. Lay the fish onto the newspaper wrapped cutting board.
Take some paper toweling and wrap one of your hands with it. Use that hand to press down on the fish’s tail thereby securing it in place onto the cutting board. Use your other hand to take a blunt edge of a knife and begin scraping off the scales from the fish.
Do so by placing the blunt end of the knife at the fish’s tail and scrape towards the fish’s head. Occasionally stop to rinse the fish under cold, running water to help remove any fish scales that may have been dislodged from the fish but are still sticking to the surface.
After you are done scaling the large round fish, rinse it under cold water to remove any remaining traces of scales. Unwrap the cutting board and re-wrap it with fresh newspaper.
Discard the old newspaper in a separate garbage bag to avoid having any lingering fish odors permeating your kitchen. A small plastic grocery bag will do or if you are into composting place the used newspaper into your compost bin.
Place the cleaned round fish onto the freshly newspaper wrapped cutting board. Take a sharp filleting knife and starting at the belly region just below the head, slit the large round fish along the belly stopping just above the fish’s tail.
Next scrape out and discard the large round fish’s entrails. Then rinse the large round fish under cold running water to remove any residual entrails. If the inside cavity of the large round fish has some black discolorations to it grab either some sea salt or table salt.
Take a pinch of the salt between your fingers and then use it to rub the inside of the fish where the black discoloration is. Doing so should remove the discoloration. Just be careful not to use too much salt.
Proceed by using a pair of kitchen shears to snip off the fish’s lower fins. Complete this procedure on both sides of the round fish so that no lower fins remain.
Continue by cutting off the round fish’s head just below the gill. If your round fish is on the small side you may opt to leave the fish tail on.
It is imperative to note at this point that small round fish as traditionally gutted differently than large round fish. In the case of very small round fish the entrails are usually squeezed out through the fish’s tail as opposed to opening the fish up as previously described above.
Large round fish are traditionally cooked with the skin on. This however does not mean that you must cook it with the skin on.
To skin a large round fish take a sharp knife and use it to cut away a thin strip of skin along the large round fish’s backbone.
Once the strip has been made, use the knife to loosen the skin around the large round fish’s head first. Proceed by dipping your fingers into some salt. Doing so will help you better grip the large round fish’s skin.
Then grab hold of the loosened skin with your fingers and gently pull the skin down towards the fish’s tail. Afterward, flip the fish over and repeat the procedure on the other side.
Large round fish can be cooked with the bone in or the bone out depending on either personal preference of what the recipe calls for.
There are two ways to de-bone a large round fish; poaching or straight de-boning. These methods will not be covered in this article for the sake of brevity.
Those that would like information on the two ways to de-bone a fresh, large round fish can find it in a second article by this writer entitled “How to De-Bone Fresh, Large Round Fish.”