Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cooking Fish

The highlight of any trip is cooking and eating the catch. I generally do not keep fish in the freezer very long. I have friends that do keep fish up to nine months, by freezing them in an empty milk container that is filled with a brine solution. But only fresh fish will taste sweet. A well preserved piece will never taste fishy. The trout family and especially lake trout will have the tendency to taste fishy if not correctly preserved. This fishy taste is caused by oxidation of the natural oils when subjected to warm temperatures. Black bass, walleye, perch rarely have this problem. I have had bass and walleye not taste up to par when caught in muddy waters, and so I generally avoid this type of lake, or if I catch a few, they are released. Deep, clean, cold and clear lakes produce the best tasting fish.

When cooking a fish we want to bring out its fine natural flavor and firm up the flesh. Cooking fish in oil that is too hot is the enemy and it will make it tough, dry, and tasteless. I like to warm up the oil gradually and the pan also and just drop a touch of water in the oil. If it jumps and pops it is ready. If it starts to smoke it is way to hot. Too hot of an oil will cause a fillet to develop an unappetizingly strong flavor. Badly cooked fish will turn more people off than for any other reason.

Testing the fish to see if it is ready for dinning is simple. Just use the tines of an ordinary kitchen fork and see if the fish will flake. When it flakes, it is ready and should show some moistness to it. I use a variety of recipes as shown on the recipe section and have tried every one of them out. The kitchen implement that I always use is a heavy cast iron skillet. This type of pan holds the heat after it is heated up and provides a better all around skillet if you are frying.

As I indicated, pan frying is my favorite method of cooking fish and there are so many commercial dips and batters on the market. I like to try them all. I try not to crowd the filets, but give them plenty of room when pan frying. I also like a mixture of one fourth to one half stick of butter to two to four parts vegetable oil. This yields excellent flavor and good nutrition. I do not use a lid even though spattering may become a problem. This is a sign of unwanted water. You can invert a colander over the pan. This will let the steam escape and continue frying the fish. It helps to prevent some of the splatter.

I rarely deep fry, but have many friends that do. They recommend heating the oil to at least 360 degrees, but not over 380. You have to guard against burned oil, and should be avoided at all costs. After the fish are dipped in your favorite batter, frying for about three to six minutes should complete the task. Draining on a paper towel and then serving immediately will provide an excellent meal.

The only fish I bake are the ones caught, or I should say bought at the super market. This would be fresh or fresh frozen salmon, halibut, or tilapia. A very hot oven for a short time is what I recommend.

We do broil some of our fish, but again this is the store bought kind. Salmon, halibut, trout, and tilapia are the ones we will broil.

For me the best part of fishing comes at the dinner table with family or friends and enjoying freshly caught fish.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck Hank.

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