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Mike

Going Nose to Tail with Blackfish

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God I love these fish. Tough to catch, but a blast to do so. In respect of these magnificent critters, givers of sport and fine dining, I've developed a "Nose to Tail" method for handling my keepers. It used to make my wife crazy to see me spending complicated prep time on these fish. After several years of enjoying the results, she actually helps me to do it. :wee:

 

First, I bleed them in salt water. Then I keep them on ice for a day. I find that if I cut them the same day, the fillets weep moisture. If I treat them like a steak off the grill and let them rest on the bone, the fillets do not weep. They yield a nice firm beautiful flesh. I thank Prefessa for teaching me this step. :th:

 

When I cut the fish, I do whatever it takes to keep the fillets from contacting the slime. If they do, they get wiped, not rinsed. I never let water touch the fish. A dry paper towel, or one damp with salt water, is all it takes. As I skin the fillets I let the meat ride up on the back of my hand that holds the skin, then land them on a clean part of the board. If you cut or have them cut on the boat, you'll get fillets full of fillet board crud that gets spread thoroughly around the fillets in a bucket of saltwater. No thanks! This fish is too good for that....

 

Once I have the rack I switch to some kick ass scissors. I cut off the tail and the fins/skin along the back and belly. Then I cut the backbone behind the head and separate it from the innards. The underside of the backbone gets a quick scrub to remove any excessive blood. Then the clean center rack goes into a pot that has a bed of coarsely chopped onions (skin on), carrots and celery in the bottom with an inch of white wine. I do this for each fish and every rack goes into the pot. I cover the pot, turn on the heat and steam the racks for 15 minutes.

 

While the racks steam, I go back to the fillets and cut off the ribcages. The clean boneless fillets go into a cooler on ice or the fridge with blue ice on top and under the fillets. The temp in the fridge is never cold enough to keep fish properly, in my eyes, so it's ice/blue ice in there as well.

 

Back to the stove, I add the ribcages to the pot, cover the racks/ribcages with water, add garlic cloves, thyme, peppercorns and bay leaves, return to a boil then reduce to a simmer. After 10 minutes, or whenever they are cooked through, I remove the ribcages. The remainder of the pot will simmer for another hour. Then I'll pour the stock through several layers of cheesecloth, squeeze out the goodness from the crud in the cloth and refrigerate the stock.

 

When the ribcages are just cool enough to handle, I de-bone the rib meat. This is time consuming but worth it to me! Also, it has to be done before the meat cools. Once cold it is nearly impossible to de-bone. The meat is used for fish salad, fish cakes, bouillabaisse or chowder.

 

Going "Nose to Tail" in this way I get beautiful fillets for sushi/sashimi or saute, awesome stock for bouillabaisse or chowder and ribcage meat for a variety of uses. Almost nothing is wasted. I highly recommend it. It's amazing what you can get from these fish with a little bit of extra work. :th:

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Amen Mike.....I don't see what folks see in a live blackfish...there not ready to eat for 24 hrs after they have bled out. And fish in the 4 lb and under are the best. The one step I will do to fish I am freezing is to trim off the white fat that you may see along the edges of the fillet...that could get nasty!

 

BTW....Bluefin Tuna in Japan also need to be bled and Iced for 3 days before its considered Sashimi Grade....its like any other animal....the meat needs to go through rigor.

 

My Friend Ralph was with me on an Offshore C-bass trip years ago. I took my fish home and fileted them the next day and left em dry...they lasted 2 years in the freezer in vacuum sealed bags.

 

My Friend had the mate cut his...where his fillets were rinsed in the "community bucket of Snot" that everyones fish got rinsed in and got packed into a big plastic bag with the skins on since it is part of the fillet at sea rules. In 3 weeks the filets turned yellow and had to be discarded because they tasted nasty. What a shame.

 

BTW the Celtic Quest has joined the band wagon. Last year they took my Cod, filleted them, then passed the fillets to the lovely Miss Caroline to be skined on a clean cutting board and packed dry into plastic bags. Those fillets are so white and mild. Meanwhile the fillets processed from a jigging trip in NH where the fillets were rinsed and not skinned.....will stink up the kitchen!

 

In todays limited fisherys...why not pay attention to the details. If your only allowed 6 fish...they might as well be the best seafood experience they can be.

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While i pretty much agree wit the Pref, i think blackfish tastes the best the day it is caught. Fish like stripe bass and bluefish thats not the case at all- those need to sit on ice for a few hours prior to cutting. There is just something about the texture of blackfish cooked in the pan the same day it was swimming. Its done when the meat start to separate. I've found the longer filets stay in teh fridge the more the flavor degrades...so i avoid freezing it and would rather give it away as i don't eat frozen fish. Ideally you don't want water and slime to get on the meat.

 

The serrated edges of the blackfish isn't fat thats just the part of the meat that is comprised of the fins. Tastes the same to me. :confused:

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Sounds great, but seems too time intensive. It's all I can do to get them vacuum sealed and in the freezer.

 

Same here :th:

 

That's not an issue for me cutting it the next day. I plan the time, hour or two, to process six fish all the way to fillet, rib meat and stock. I try not to freeze it.

 

The last six fish I took home went fast. I took my kids to my Mom's for sushi/sashimi lunch using three fillets, my kids took three fillets home and made a fish fry dinner, Mom took a whole fish that she roasted for dinner with her friends and a fillet for herself for the next night, my wife and I ate two fillets for dinner and finished the last fillet as a sushi/sashimi appetizer the next night. All used fresh within two days after cutting. :th:

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God I love these fish. Tough to catch, but a blast to do so. In respect of these magnificent critters, givers of sport and fine dining, I've developed a "Nose to Tail" method for handling my keepers. It used to make my wife crazy to see me spending complicated prep time on these fish. After several years of enjoying the results, she actually helps me to do it. :wee:...

 

Something tells me its not just your fish prep habits that made your wife crazy...:p

 

 

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