Cooking School Journal: Fish

This is what I learned from the fish class: Eating perfectly prepared fish in a fancy Beverly Hills restaurant is way more fun than learning how to perfectly prepare fish for a fancy Beverly Hills restaurant.

Carving up fish sucks. It’s smelly and messy and gross. Outside of changing diapers, those are three parameters that I tend to avoid.

It’s why I don’t go fishing.

We eviscerated (carved open and discarded the innards) of three types of fish. John Dory, trout and salmon.

John Dory, I learned,  was the prize. It is actually more expensive to procure than lobster, as is monkfish (which used to be considered lobster’s humble replacement). BTW the monkfish is the ugliest fish I’ve ever seen, but totally yummy. How does that happen?

The Monkfish. Yum.

The Monkfish. Yum.

John Dory is a firm white fish much like tilapia or roughy, but much more expensive. Its bony head and gut account for a large part of the fish’s weight, and therefore you get less edible fish for your money. However, it splits easily into four boneless filets that are delicate and sweet with fine flakes.  It’s really wonderful, but again, not so handsome.

John Dory. Yum

John Dory. Yum.

Side Note: Speaking of value, Chef explained some basics about menu planning and pricing. Restaurants charge WAY over wholesale prices for chicken and salmon ( the two most popular entrees). Chicken can be procured for less than $1 per pound and salmon for $2.  Compare that to its $25 price tag on a menu. What a racket!

However, by making so much money on the chicken, the Chef can then offer veal chops at a price that doesn’t prevent customers from ordering them but yields a much smaller profit margin.

The moral: Unless you find yourself dining in a 4-star establishment on the banks of Alaska’s Copper River, skip the salmon. Make it at home instead. However, at Morton’s, order the veal chop. You’ll get more bang for your buck (even though the restaurant won’t).

Okay, so back to class. First we watched Chef demo how to make Fond de Poisson (fish stock). She sauteed diced shallots with the bones and bits of remaining meat from the fish we eviscerated and filleted. She deglazed the pan with white wine and added aromatic veggies, more wine, a bouquet garni and enough water just to cover.

Simmer for 30 minutes. Don’t simmer longer than that because the natural salt in the fish will make the stock too salty. As always, no salt in the stock! Then it would be a broth.

It smelled divine.

When she was finished,  it was time to break into groups.

Home-schooler was waiting for me with a sharp boning knife and a big smile.  I braced myself for an attack.

“Oh, your mother is so lovely! She was so charming. She made everybody feel comfortable. Why don’t you come and sit next to me? We can be partners on the next recipe!”

I stood in the middle of the room completely dumbfounded. Oh my God! Is she being nice to me?

And like some dumb kid on the playground, I forgot all transgressions and skipped off with her to play on the swings.

She was my partner for the next lesson.