Fundamentals of cooking, week 4

Striped bass and flounder. AKA. Bill and Phil.
Striped bass and flounder. AKA. Bill and Phil.

Here fishy fishy! That was the theme for this week’s task – fish Monday, fish Tuesday, fish everywhere. Monday’s class started with the demo on how to filet striped bass and flounder. These fish were chosen specifically because one is a round fish (bass) and one is a flat fish (flounder)*. I’ve never once touched a fish, living or dead so I was a bit hesitant to dig in there and grab one of these guys. But just like last week with the game hen, I sucked it up and went to work.

The technique is actually pretty simple – given that you have a sharp filet knife and know exactly what to look for. One cut at the tail, a cut just behind the head, and one smooth slice down each side to detach the filet. Not so easy the first time around, but we did the same thing on Tuesday and having done it two nights in a row helped – Tuesday was much easier. Not to say that I did a beautiful job, but it was easier.

What I’m loving about this class is that each week builds upon everything we’ve learned. We’re going through mirepoix like it’s going out of style and with each batch, my cuts are getting more and more precise. I executed my first totally perfect small dice on a carrot this week, and that felt awesome.

This week also introduced a couple simple pan sauce techniques. We did a beurre blanc with the flounder one night and a simple tomato, mushroom, onion sauce another night. We also learned a simple technique for fish called a la meuniere, which translates into “the way of the miller”. All you do is dredge it lightly in flour before dropping it into the pan. It creates a very light, brown texture on the filet.

On our second night, Chef measured our yields for each fish. Mine were 30% for the bass and 27% for the flounder, which is abysmal. If I were to sell either of those for a profit in a restaurant, I’d have to charge upwards of $40, and nobody is going to pay that much for either of those fish. A good yield for fish, depending on the size and type is around 42 – 64%. I ate a little of each fish and they tasted pretty darn good, even if the yield was awful.

Mayo. Gross, but well executed.
Mayo. Gross, but well executed.

We also squeezed in a little time to make mayonnaise. If I could have skipped this part, I would. I think mayonnaise is the most vile, disgusting condiment out there. I don’t care what you do with it – add herbs, flavors, make an aioli – I’m not putting that stuff on or in any of my food. For the record, I did try what I made, so I get points there and I still didn’t like it. I was, however, nearly flawless in my execution. It didn’t break and I got a great upper body workout in the process. I’m getting grossed out just thinking about it.

At least next week I can look forward to making shrimp scampi!

*Bonus trivia: flat and round fish are distinguished not only by the obvious differences in body shape but also by the position of their eyes. Flat fish have both eyes on top of their head and round fish have their eyes on either side of the head. It’s sort of hard to imagine until you see each type up close and personal.

Striped bass
Striped bass


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