We insert all the best remarks that various culinary authors have made on Fish.
There is a general rule in choosing most kinds of fish; if their gills are red, their eyes plump, and the whole fish stiff, they are good; if, on the contrary, the gills are pale, the eyes sunk, and the fish flabby, they are stale. The greatest care should be taken that the fish is properly cleansed before being dressed, but not washed beyond what is absolutely necessary for cleaning, as by perpetual watering, the flavour is diminished. When clean, if the fish is to be boiled, some salt, and a little vinegar should be put into the water, to give it firmness. Care .should be taken to boil the fish well, but not to let it break. Cod, whiting, and haddock are much better for being a little salted, and kept for a day.
There is often a muddy smell and taste attached to fresh-water fish, which may be got rid of by soaking it, after it has been thoroughly cleaned in strong sait and water; or, if the fish is not too large, scald it in the same; then dry, and dress it.
Care should be taken that the fish is put into cold water, and allowed to do very gently, otherwise the outside will break before the inside is done.
Crimp fish must be put into boiling water; and as soon as it boils up, a little cold water should be put in, to check the excessive heat, and simmer it for a few minutes.
If the fish is not taken out of the water the instant it is done, it will become woolly; to ascertain when it is ready, the fish plate on which it is dressed may be drawn up, and if sufficiently done, it will leave the bone. To keep hot for serving, and to prevent it from losing its color, the fish plate should be placed crossways over the fish-kettle, and a clean cloth put over the fish.
Small fish may be either nicely fried plain, or done over with egg and bread crumbs, and then fried. Upon the dish on which the fish is to be served, should be placed a folded damask napkin, and upon this put the fish, with the liver and roe; then garnish the dish with horse-radish, parsley, and lemon. Fish is a dish which is almost more attended to than any other.
To fry or broil fish properly, after it is well cleaned and washed, it should be wrapped in a nice soft cloth, and when perfectly dry, wetted with egg, and sprinkled all over with very fine bread crumbs; it will look still better to be done over with egg and crumbs a second time. Then having on the fire a thick-bottomed frying-pan, with plenty of lard or dripping, boiling hot; put the fish into it, and let it fry tolerably quick till it is done, and of a nice brown yellow. If it is done before it has obtained a nice brown color, the pan should be drawn to the side of the fire, the fish carefully taken up, and placed either upon a sieve turned upwards, or on the under side of a dish, and placed before the fire to drain, and finish browning; if wanted particularly nice, a sheet of cap paper must be put to receive the fish. Fish fried in oil obtains a much finer color than when done in lard or dripping. Butter should never be used, as it gives a bad color. Garnish your dish with a fringe of curled raw parsley, or with fried parsley.
When fish is to be broiled, it must be seasoned, floured, and done on a very clean gridiron; which, when hot, should be rubbed over with suet, to hinder the fish from sticking. It should be broiled over a very clear fire, to prevent its tasting smoky, and great care must be taken not to scorch it.
This department of the business of the kitchen requires considerable experience, and depends more upon practice than any other. A very few moments, more or less, will thoroughly spoil fish; which, to be eaten in perfection, must never be put on the table till the soup is taken off.
So many circumstances operate on this occasion, that it is almost impossible to write general rules.
There are decidedly different opinions, whether fish should be put into cold, tepid, or boiling water.
Fish must by no means be allowed to remain in the water after it is boiled; if therefore it should be ready before it can be sent to table, it must be dished, the cover put on, and a cloth put over it. The dish is then to be set across the fish-kettle.
Fish should be fried over a clear quick fire; and with dripping, or hog's lard in preference to butter. The pan should be deep; and to ascertain that it is clean, a little fat is first fried in it, poured out, and the pan wiped with a clean cloth; as much dripping or lard is then put in as will entirely cover the fish. When it is boiling hot, and begins to smoke, the fish is put in; if small, they may be turned in three or four minutes, by sticking in a fork near the head with one hand, and with the other supporting the tail with a fish-slice. When they are done, they should be laid before the fire upon an old soft towel, and turned now and then till they are dry upon both sides; or they may be put upon a large sieve, turned upwards, and which is kept for the purpose, or put on the under side of a dish.
The fire for broiling fish must be very clear, and the gridiron perfectly clean, which, when hot, should be rubbed with a bit of suet. The fish, while broiling, must be often turned.
Several respectable fishmongers and experienced cooks have assured the editor, that they are often in danger of losing their credit by fish too fresh, and especially tur-bot and cod, which, like meat, require a certain time before they are in the best condition to be dressed. They recommend them to be put into cold water, salted in proportion of about a quarter of a pound of salt to a gallon of water. Sea-water is best to boil sea-fish in. It not only saves the expense of salt, but the flavor is better. Let them boil slowly till done; the sign of which is, that the skin of the fish rises up, and the eyes turn white.
It is the business of the fishmonger to clean them, etc. but the careful cook will always wash them again.
The liver, roe, and chitterlings should be placed so that the carver may observe them, and invite the guest to partake of them.
Fish, like meat, requires more cooking in cold than in warm weather. If it becomes frozen, it must be thawed by the means we have directed for meat.
Fish are plenty and good, and in great variety, in all the towns and cities on the extensive coast of the United States. Some of the interior towns are also supplied with fish peculiar to the lakes and rivers of this country.
All kinds of fish are best sometime before they begin to spawn; and are unfit for food for sometime after they have spawned.
Fish, like animals, are fittest for the table when they are just full grown; and what has been said respecting vegetables, applies equally well to fish.
The most convenient utensil to boil fish in, is a turbot-kettle. This should be twenty-four inches long, twenty-two wide, and nine deep. It is an excellent vessel to i boil a ham in, etc. etc.
The liver of the fish pounded and mixed with butter, with a little lemon-juice, etc. is an elegant and inoffensive relish to fish. Mushroom sauce extempore or the soup of mock turtle, will make an excellent fish sauce.
For liquids, you have meat gravy, lemon-juice, simp of lemons, essence of anchovy, the various vegetable essences, mushroom catchup, and the whites and yolks of eggs, wines, and (he essence of spices.
Take any sort of fish you think proper, being very careful that it is quite fresh; clean it thoroughly, dry, and season it to your taste; then put it (without any moisture), into a pan, which may be closely covered, with the exception of a small hole, to allow of evaporation. Put it into an oven as soon as the bread is drawn, and let it stand until the whole is so completely dissolved, that the bones are not perceptible. When cold, this makes a very transparent, well-flavored jelly.
Take carp, tench, perch, eels, pike, and other fresh-water fish of the same kind; clean them well, and cut them into pieces, as near of a size as may be; lay them in a stewpan, on a layer of sliced onions and carrots; as soon as they begin to sweat, put in a bit of butter, and leave them for a quarter of an hour; moisten them with fish broth, and let them boil gently for an hour; keep the pan closely covered; this will afford a very nourishing broth.
Take two ounces of either turbot, sole, lobster, shrimps, or oysters; free from skin, put it in a mortar with two ounces of fresh butter, one ounce of bread-crumbs, the yolk of two eggs boiled hard, and a little eschalot, grated lemon-peel, and parsley, minced very fine; then pound it well till it is thoroughly mixed and quite smooth; season it with salt and Cayenne to your taste; break in the yolk and white of one egg, rub it well together, and it is ready for use. Oysters parboiled and minced fine, and an anchovy, may be added