Spring is flirting around the corner — that means one possible thing: fishing or hopefully catch some thing in the summer. Catching a fish with me is quite the comical scene. Countless weeds and somehow, catching the motor or Mike’s rod instead of a fish. The man sure has lots of patience to even try teach me how to fish! I’ve caught one, but it was just the perfect cast, with some wrist action, combined with the wind direction and beginner’s luck. My first fish was a wall-eye. However, Mike helped me unhook the fish and release it, following the lake’s regulations.
Fish was one of the things my mom gave a one-on-one demonstration on how to clean the fish and how to season it before frying it. Mind you, I have never degutted a fish. Last summer, while I was busy preparing for an upcoming module exam, Mike brought his first rainbow trout home from a three-hour drive, cringed and said, “Here, you deal with it”. Okay… all I could remember from any of Mom’s advice is to not puncture the gall bladder. Right, and how does it even look like again?
Step 1: Scaling the fish
This part should be the easiest though bearing in mind that the fish will be slippery. (So using a cloth to hold it may help) My tool of choice: any knife will do. For easy clean up, I usually do this process in a clean kitchen sink. Hold the fish firmly. Hold the knife vertically at a slight angle to raise the scales and run across the fish. I like to de-scale or scrub the fish as much as I can — even from the fish’s belly (ventral), top (dorsal) and sides. There’s nothing more annoying than having to keep spitting fish scales as you eat.
Step 2: Degutting
I took a deep breath and consulted Joy of Cooking. Mommy’s not here to help. She’s the master of fish — she can make sweet and sour fish, tom yum fish curry, deliciously steamed and fried fish. So, I began bravely with my knife, cutting as shallowly as possible around the pelvic and ventral fin — lest I would puncture the gall bladder. To my surprise, everything I needed to remove was encased in a pouch-like object. That was easier than I had initially bargained for.
Step 3: Wash the fish
Wash the fish in running cold water, I removed any visible bits of blood or membrane. Using just my fingers to pick away at the blood line under the backbone, I carefully ensure there are none of the fish blood left. (That would destroy the taste of your fish)
Once the fish was cleaned, I prepared a seasoned flour mixture — using crushed cornflakes instead of breadcrumbs or all-purpose flour:
1 cup crushed cornflakes
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
Coat the fish with the seasoned flour mixture.
Melting about two tablespoons of salted butter in the heated griddle, I started to pan fry the seasoned trout — taking care not to overcook the fish. Fish will not take very long to cook. Once fish is soft and flakey, it is ready to be eaten. Fresh fish always has the sweetest texture. I was so glad I did the fish justice — I did remember a few things from my mother after all, ten years later.
If you do try to attempt to cook a fish, make sure you check Julia Child’s The French Chef on DVD — she shows you various elaborate ways of cleaning and cutting the fish, which includes the simple method I have adapted from the Joy of Cooking. It is easy to be disgusted by the process of preparing a fish, but it is not too difficult at all.