A lifelong vegetarian, I recently read the book “Real Food” by Nina Plank. In this book, she talks about the importance of fish oils and makes a strong case for eating fish, stating that the combination of oils and nutrients in fish are imperative for proper brain function. Not wanting to underutilize any aspect of my brain, I’ve started to add fish into my diet. My goal is to eat fish 2 times per week.
But, that whole lifelong vegetarian thing really puts a crimp on actually cooking fish. I do not know how to do it. I have no idea where to start. So, the fish habit is getting expensive. I have to eat out for each of those fish meals.
Determined to end my ignorance of all things fish and ocean, I attended a Fish Cooking Class at Ciao Thyme. I’ve taken a knife skills class with the talented and funny Mataio Gillis before so I knew it would be an entertaining evening. Thankfully, I had a good friend along to help. This is Heather and she did a much better crimp job on her “en papillote” than I did. More on that later.
The key things to take away from the class according to our instructor are:
1. Fish should be fresh and cold.
2. Fish should smell like the sea – not the sea shore.
1. Who knew fish could taste good with nothing but salt and olive oil?
2. Really? You can take the skin off a fish with a big, huge knife and one strategically placed pull?
3. I can do this! I really can do this!
4. The perfect grill marks *do* add to flavor.
5. En Papillote is easy to do and is your friend.
6. Sauteeing a fish is not only possible, but I can and will do it.
Mataio started by demonstrating the proper way to debone a fish. I am very proud of the large fish bone I’m holding in this photo; unreasonably proud given the relative ease of the task.
Then he proceeded to hand-on wow us with different techniques. We grilled salmon. We smoked salmon (Oh my goodness! The board caught on fire. There was smoke involved. It was quite exciting.). We brined salmon (this is key to adding flavor and slow the release of fat during cooking – genius!). We learned how to salt crust rock fish with a salt/water solution and a salt/meringue solution. Though Mataio predicted a “crimping failure” (I’m not adept at following many simple instructions; mostly because I started before I was supposed to), this is my perfect (eyes downcast modestly) en papillote fish. I will be doing this method again at home.
If you’re in the Bellingham area, you should mark your calender to attend a class. With classes like Cinco de Mayo, No Bake Desserts and Sushi 101 coming up, you can’t go wrong.
P.S. Making salmon skin chips (which look suspiciously like a leather belt) is simple. You coat the salmon skin with olive oil, put a little salt on the skin and then put the entire thing on a cookie sheet and bake until crisp. It tastes … okay. Sort of like dried seaweed.