Monday, June 05, 2006

cooking whole fish

As I may have mentioned before, I am a convert to cooking whole fish. It is incredibly easy, always comes out succulent and is a breeze to clean up when you line the pan or wrap it in al foil. Another great reason is whole fish is a cheap way of eating seafood and any fishmonger worth his or her salt will clean, scale and gut it for you for no extra cost. If they ask – always keep the head on! Ignore the pesky eyes staring blindly at you from the table, remember fish eyes are a delicacy in some countries.

I have a couple of fallback ways to cook a whole beast.

Whole fish with tomato and basil
This was the first recipe I adapted, inspired by Cheryl Beere’s “The Atomic Café Cookbook”. The original recipe ’Barbecued whole stuffed baby salmon’ suggested stuffing the cavity of a baby salmon with fresh basil, marjoram, oregano, black olives, capers, garlic, lemon juice and slices of onion and tomatoes. Season. Wrap in aluminium foil and bbq 15 minutes per side.

I simplified this to – take a baby trout (while I still ate farmed fish), slice some lemon, tear up some basil leaves, chop up a bit of garlic and throw this in the cavity. Season. Wrap in al foil and bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes or more depending on the size. Test with a sharp knife to see if cooked.

Easy as!

Whole fish with lemon, garlic and thyme
Score some slices in the thicker parts of the flesh and insert slices of lemon and sliver of garlic. Do this about 4 or 5 times a side. In the cavity add more lemon, fresh thyme or rosemary and some chunks of garlic. Season. This can be cooked uncovered at 180-200c.

Get the idea? The next step is to put your favourite flavours together and make it your way.

…and here’s one we made earlier (before my canon camera had that malfunction they don’t admit to)

From memory this is mackerel. It has a great omega 3 profile, is ridiculously cheap, tastes great but does have some pesky fine bones. We got it originally for the cats, but why should they have all the fun? The fish is seasoned with sea salt and some ground mixed peppercorns.

Last week’s fish was bonito. It never seems to have scales and has very dense, meaty flesh. It's got the health advanatges of tuna, without the big fish mercury. I inserted the slices of lemon and garlic and used rosemary to stuff it because that was the only suitable fresh herb still growing in the backyard following the recent renovations. The 750g bonito cost the princely (princessly) sum of $6 from Prossers at Vic Market. There was easily enough to feed 3 people. That’s right – a delicious fish meal for $2 a head! Served up with masses of colcannon this was a hearty dish to welcome the first day of winter.

Go on, be brave. Whole fish is actually easier to cook than fiddley fillets that dry out easily. Invest in a big platter, so you can serve it whole at the table (stainless steel ones from catering supply stores are useful) and it will never fail to impress. For those afraid of bones try something with a thick spine, like snapper, which is easy to peel away once you have served the top layer.


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Anonymous kitchen hand said...

I use whole flounder occasionally - easy and delicious.

2:06 pm  
Blogger Helen said...

You mackerel looks lovely and this post renewed my craving for bonito. I was only lucky enough to cook it once (it's really hard to find around Boston). It was like tuna, only better. Where do you live? Can you find bonito on regular basis?

2:40 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Hi Helen, I'm in Melbourne Australia. I have only become aware of bonito in the past year. I don't see it very often at the fish market here, but I look out for it now. Dried bonito is of course delicious in a dashi for a miso soup or fluttering on top of agadashi tofu...but the fresh fish is quite a different deal!

2:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So glad to see my recipe inspired you to wonderful things. Cheers Cheryl Beere

9:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Bellflower and I some times go to the San Pedro wholesale fish stores and get a whole tuna or mackerel by the box. The mackerels are small enough to smoke whole. I tried smoking the whole tuna by hanging it but that was a disaster. I had to cut it in half for it to fit my smoker.

7:42 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anybody tasted parrot fish? I know it looks so colorful to eat but it tastes so good. My cousin from Maui wrapped the whole fish in tiki leaves after stuffing it with onions, garlic and tomatoes and cooked it on the barbie. You know how something tastes so good it like melted in your mouth? YUM!!!

7:48 am  

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