Filleting and storing the catch can be a messy business. Grant Dixon shares some simple tips that will ensure your fish is presented in pristine condition, free from any contaminating mess and moisture.
If you have taken the trouble to iki your fish, bleed it then cool it quickly, the last thing you want to do is introduce the fillets to the blood and guts and excess water on your cutting board.
A simple remedy is to use a glass squeegee to wipe the cutting board clean after processing each fish. Sure, you can give the board a spray down with water, but this, too, should be removed to prevent contact with the clean flesh. At the end of the processing, the fillets should only need a pat down with a paper towel pre-cooking to remove stray scales or moisture.
A squeegee is a quick and efficient way of keeping the filleting surface free from blood and guts.
I use a vegetable keeper with a removable bottom grid to prevent the fillets from contacting any fluid which comes out of the flesh over time. Wrapping your fillets in paper towels to soak up excess moisture is another way to extend the life of your fish. Keep changing out the towels regularly as they dampen, a job that is done less frequently as time goes on. We have had snapper fillets stored this way for over a week after we caught them, and they have been perfect. It all starts with the initial treatment of the fish, where ikiing and chilling it down immediately is important.
Wrapping your fillets in paper towels and changing them as they absorb the moisture, is a great way to extend your fillets’ longevity in the fridge.
If you want to freeze your fish, follow the same steps of wrapping it in paper towels for a day or two to drain as much moisture as possible, removing the paper just before you vacuum pack it. At the other end, cook it while it is still slightly frozen to maintain a near-fresh texture and taste.
Vacuum packing fish after the fillets have been thoroughly dried ensures it stays in top condition, even when frozen.
Having your knives razor sharp helps with the presentation of the fillet. A sharp knife slices cleanly (and with less effort) through the flesh, whereas a blunt edge ‘tears’ the flesh as you drag the blade through it.
Keeping a sharp edge on your knives will make filleting an easier task and make a neater job of the ‘surgery’.
When preparing the heads, frames and throats for the smoker, I use a heavier-bladed knife, the edge of which will stand up to working through the hard bones.
Use a heavier-bladed knife to cut through frames and throats, thus preserving the edge of your finer filleting knives.
Recently I have been experimenting with bleeding my snapper, just as you would a tuna, kahawai or kingfish. I find that after bleeding, those fine bloodlines that show up when cooking the fish have disappeared. The jury is still out with regard to the taste, but the consensus is that this is improved with bleeding.
June 2023 - Grant Dixon
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
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