In selecting fish, choose those only in which the eye is full and prominent, the flesh thick and firm, the scales bright and fins stiff. They should be thoroughly cleaned before cooking.
The usual modes of cooking fish are boiled, baked, broiled, fried and occasionally stewed. Steaming fish is much superior to boiling, but the ordinary conveniences in private houses do not admit of the possibility of enjoying this delicate way of cooking it. Large fish are generally boiled, medium-sized ones baked or boiled, the smaller kinds fried or broiled. Very large fish, such as cod, halibut, etc., are cut in steaks or slices for frying or broiling. The heads of some fish, as the cod, halibut, etc., are considered tidbits by many. Small fish, or pan-fish, as they are usually called, are served without the heads, with the exception of brook-trout and smelts; these are usually cooked whole, with the heads on. Bake fish slowly, basting often with butter and water. Salmon is considered the most nutritious of all fish. When boiling fish, by adding a little vinegar and salt to the water, it seasons and prevents the nutriment from being drawn out; the vinegar acting on the water hardens the water.
Fill the fish with a nicely prepared stuffing of rolled cracker or stale bread crumbs, seasoned with butter, pepper, salt, sage and any other aromatic herbs fancied; sew up; wrap in a well-floured cloth, tied closely with twine, and boil or steam. The garnishes for boiled fish are: for turbot, fried smelts; for other boiled fish, parsley, sliced beets, lemon or sliced boiled egg. Do not use the knives, spoons, etc., that are used in cooking fish, for other food, as they will be apt to impart a fishy flavor.
Fish to be boiled should be put into cold water and set on the fire to cook very gently, or the outside will break before the inner part is done. Unless the fish are small, they should never be put into warm water; nor should water, either hot or cold, be poured on to the fish, as it is liable to break the skin; if it should be necessary to add a little water while the fish is cooking, it ought to be poured in gently at the side of the vessel.
Fish to be broiled should lie, after they are dressed, for two or three hours, with their inside well sprinkled with salt and pepper.
Salt fish should be soaked in water before boiling, according to the time it has been in salt. When it is hard and dry, it will require thirty-six hours soaking before it is dressed, and the water must be changed three or four times. When fish is not very salt, twenty-four hours, or even one night, will suffice.
When frying fish the fire must be hot enough to bring the fat to such a degree of heat as to sear the surface and make it impervious to the fat, and at the same time seal up the rich juices. As soon as the fish is browned by this sudden application of heat, the pan may be moved to a cooler place on the stove, that the process may be finished more slowly.
Fat in which fish has been fried is just as good to use again for the same purpose, but it should be kept by itself and not put to any other use,