作者：Yates, Lucy H.
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A Handbook of Fish Cookery试读：
In spite of a considerable amount of trade grumbling, the best part of the market is still held by English fish, as a glance at any time over the names on the crates will show. The foreign importations, though large, are not nearly so extensive as might be supposed.
As a rule the north British ports furnish the largest supply; the southern ports suffer the most from foreign competition. Continental freightage also is light, and as the foreigner rarely keeps very closely to the laws of "fence months," he gets fish into the market when no home-caught of the same kind is to be had.
If all people, both rich and poor, could be persuaded to eat fish more freely, they would be benefited both in health and pocket.
If the demand were greater the supply would be more liberal, more varied, and also much cheaper.
At present, although there is much complaining about catches falling off, many grounds yielding but a poor harvest, yet tons of fish are annually sent away from the markets for manure.
The trade is both risky and variable, consequently prices have to be kept up that the dealer may realise some profit, and for this state of things the modern housewife is largely accountable.
It is not wholly a question of price, although there is still much to desire on this point.
Ignorance, especially with the working-man's wife, will generally be found to be the cause of the aversion which many housewives have to the cooking of fish; even in middle and upper class households much ignorance as to the kinds of fish and the best means of making use of them prevails.
The poorer classes still regard fish as "nothing to make a meal of," and, sad to say, a great many of the poor of our cities will not eat fish, however cheaply they may get it. They have many advantages of getting it which those who live in superior neighbourhoods have not.
Often before the Central Market closes, first-rate cod is to be had for twopence the pound—a seven-pound cod for a shilling. Plentiful and wholesome as cod is, it is seldom much thought of by poor people. Salted, sun-dried cod, is thought beneath notice, although large quantities are consumed on the continent, and some very dainty dishes made therefrom. Plaice, too, generally to be had at fourpence the pound, is but lightly esteemed.
Humble Londoners care most for smoked fish, "something that has a grip with it," they say. To meet this demand many adulterations are practised by the cockney curer. "Haddocks" are often but indifferent codling. The "Finnan Haddie" was caught in the Scheldt, and Stavanger herrings are passed off as Yarmouth bloaters.
Unwholesome common lobsters, winkles, and whelks, are preferred to good substantial fish, and, as before stated, ignorance of the proper methods of cooking is most frequently the reason of this.
Where late dinners, with people of small incomes, are coming more into favour, it is found an economy, as it is also considered the "correct thing," to have a course of fish. Indeed, as an economical article of diet, fish has few rivals.
Many people who really would enjoy eating it are debarred from doing so by its being invariably badly cooked, or presented always in the same monotonous dress.
Phosphorus being essential for brain food, and as analysis has proved fish to contain a greater amount than almost any other article of diet, it is the more valuable still on this account.
The fish which afford the most nourishment are the kinds which most resemble meat, as salmon, mackerel, &c. turbot and halibut, though strictly belonging to the "lighter" order, are very nourishing on account of the amount of meat which they bear in proportion to bone. The whiter kinds of fish are the most easily digestible, as soles or cod, whiting, &c., and some kinds of river fish, notably perch.
With the exception of trout—and perhaps pike—fresh-water fish are less esteemed than they deserve to be.
Salmon is sometimes called a river fish, though genuinely it is not so, as, although born in the river, the sea is its home and natural sphere.
In Parisian restaurants many dainty dishes are prepared from fish caught in the Seine; and in country places where sea-water fish is often difficult to obtain, the ponds and rivers will often furnish excellent substitutes.
All fresh-water fish—with the exception of trout—is at its best in winter-time.
Shell-fish, perfectly harmless in themselves as they may be, exemplify the saying that "what is one man's meat is another man's poison;" accordingly, where they are found to disagree they should be strictly avoided.
Oysters, the most highly esteemed of shell-fish, are frequently ordered by the physician when it is desirable to unite great nourishment with easy digestion, the amount of gluten they contain giving them this valuable quality.
Lobsters are popularly considered to be the least harmful next to oysters, and the flesh of a fresh crab is both delicate and delicious.
Shrimps, prawns, and crayfish, should properly rank as "relishes"; they are extremely useful in savoury dishes, either with or without other fish.
Cockles are deservedly esteemed by the rich, and they have often staved off the pressure of starvation from the poor of our coasts.
The limpet is a great favourite with the Irish, while the periwinkle is the poor man's luxury, and the clam enjoys high favour in the United States.
CHOOSING AND BUYING FISH.
Before coming to this important part of our subject, we would like to offer a suggestion (in all courtesy, be it understood) to our friends the fishmongers.
Why do they, we would ask, invariably establish themselves on the sunny side of the road? Surely if any branch of trade requires coolness and shade it is the fish trade, yet how rare an exception to find one so situated. Then we would respectfully draw their attention to their way of handling the fish. Often it receives most unmerciful treatment, being knocked about on the marble slab with a force quite unnecessary. All fish suffer more or less, but delicate fish, such as soles, suffer in this way just as a ripe peach or pear does if subjected to the same treatment. The same difference can be detected in the bruised part of fish as in a bruised peach.
Also a too liberal pouring-on of water is injurious. No doubt the bright and well-washed fish, surrounded with lumps of ice, look far more tempting than the boat-load all smeared with blood, yet the fish would be much better if they did not see fresh water until they are to be dressed at home. In this matter, however, the fishmonger is to a large extent ruled by popular opinion, and if the latter forbids the purchase of fish in their more natural condition, he is perhaps justified in endeavouring to suit the fancy of his customers.
In choosing fish care should be taken not to judge too much by first appearances, although, fortunately, fish, if not fresh, soon tells its tale.
If the eyes are dull, or the skin and the scales rub off easily, avoid that fish. If the skin is bright, the flesh firm to the touch when pressed between the thumb and finger, you may rely upon its being fresh; stale fish, or that which has been kept long in ice, is always flabby.
One safe general direction for choosing fish may be given in few words, viz., choose the plump ones.
A short fish, thick about the shoulders, is much to be preferred to a long thin one. Thick soles, or thick turbots, are far preferable to thin ones. The same with codfish.
Lobsters and crabs should be chosen by weight, and those of medium size are best in flavour.
There are one or two kinds of fish which are positively improved by being kept a day or two, notably skate and red mullet.
Mackerel, on the contrary, is a fish than which none spoils more rapidly.
The sole holds a first position among flat fish, and is deservedly esteemed, as its flesh is firm and delicate and very easily digested, hence its great popularity with the sick. It has also the advantage of being obtainable all the year round in good condition. The skin of the back is sometimes dark, sometimes white, varying with the nature of the ground on which the fish feeds. Soles vary in size from quite little slips, called "tongues," to large fish weighing eight or nine pounds per pair. Those in roe are rather insipid in flavour, and are best for filleting. They vary in price, but are never a cheap fish.
Halibut is an excellent substitute for turbot, which it rather resembles in flavour, and is a comparatively cheap fish. It is abundant in spring and summertime, and always a favourite with Jewish people. Being a very large fish, it is rarely sold entire. The choice bits are the flackers over the fins and the pickings about the head.
A fillet or "steak" is the most profitable portion for general eating.
Cod is at its best about Christmas time. From the end of January to March it is less good and not abundant; in May again it is generally very fine. The best are those which are plump and round at the tail, the sides having a slightly ribbed appearance, with yellow spots on a clear skin.
Large cod are not generally cooked whole, being so much thicker at the head than at the tail. The head and shoulders, usually sold apart, form a handsome dish.
It is a very nourishing fish, valuable in many ways, and if its "adaptabilities" were more understood it would be more generally appreciated.
The salmon has been called the "king of fresh-water fish," yet, as before remarked, it does not belong to this category.
The river is its birthplace, it is true, but the sea is its pasture ground, where it returns periodically to renew its strength. It inhabits fresh and salt water alternately, spending its summer in the river and its winter in the sea. Just as the swallow returns again to the same roof which sheltered it, so the salmon returns again to the same river. This fact has been taken advantage of to naturalise salmon in rivers where formerly there were no signs of them. No stranger salmon cruising along the coast will mistake another river's mouth for the mouth of its own river.
The flesh is rich and delicious in flavour, and to be eaten in perfection it should be dressed as soon as caught; there will then be found between the flakes a creamy-white substance called "curd," which is highly esteemed by the epicure. Nevertheless, it is then highly indigestible; to be perfectly wholesome eating the salmon should be kept twenty-four hours, then the curd solidifies, and though perhaps less delicate in flavour, it is richer and far less likely to disagree.
In season from February to August; it is at its cheapest in July and August.
Salmon trout, though resembling salmon in flavour and appearance, are really not at all the same species. They rarely exceed two to three pounds in weight—generally they are but three-quarters of a pound. They are justly regarded as a great delicacy, and are at their best in spring and early summer. The flesh is sometimes white, sometimes red; the latter is the most prized.
When choosing salmon trout examine the inside of the throat through the gills. If this is very red the flesh will prove to be red, though not so red as salmon.
There are two or three kinds of trout: common, sea, and white trout. Sea trout reaches a good size, white trout never does. River trout are most delicious and highly esteemed; the most delicate in flavour are those which weigh from three-quarters to one pound.
Trout, which is in season from May to September, is in perfection in June.
Carp and tench are pond rather than river fish, and both have a great fondness for burying themselves in mud, and owing to this the flesh has often a slight muddy taste; for this reason the fish should lie in strong salt and water for a few hours, then be well cleansed in clear spring water.
Both are at their best in the winter months. The tench, though a smaller fish, is richer and more delicate than the carp. They are useful fish to families residing in the country.
Although the pike attains to a considerable size in England, it is small in comparison with its brethren found in Russian and Lapland waters. Indeed it more truly deserves to be called a Russian fish, so much more abundant and popular is it there. In colour the skin is a pale olive-grey, with several yellowish spots on the sides, and the mouth is furnished with a prodigious number of teeth, which has earned for it the name of "fresh-water shark."
It was at one time a very popular article of food, and is still considered a good fish for the table. In some countries the fish is salted and dried, and the roe made into caviare.
The perch, which is one of the commonest of our fresh-water fish, is also one of the best. It is met with in almost all lakes and rivers in temperate regions. When full-grown it is a large fish, although one weighing a pound is thought a good size, and one of three pounds very large. The flesh is white, firm, of a good flavour, and easily digested.
Perch are so tenacious of life, they may be carried fifty miles and yet survive the journey.
Best used as soon as caught, they are also better for being crimped as soon as they leave the water. Their season is from June to February.
Perhaps the most commonly used fish is the herring. Shoals of herring visit the British Islands from the end of May till October, and even occasionally during the winter months. In the beginning of the season the fish is rather oily, and often found to be indigestible on that account, but after the first few weeks this disappears, and then it becomes both digestible and nourishing.
In choosing herrings take care that they feel firm, and have bright eyes and scales.
Sprats closely resemble herrings in appearance and flavour, only they are but a third of the size of the latter. They are very abundant on the North British coasts, and in Edinburgh and Glasgow are sold by measure. Their best season is the winter time, and their freshness may be judged by their silvery appearance—or otherwise.
The highly esteemed smelt is a most delicate fish. When fresh it possesses an odour like a freshly-cut cucumber, but this perfume passes away twelve hours after it has been caught.
The Dutch fisheries furnish very fine smelts, and the baskets full of bright silvery little bodies look very tempting in the wholesale market. These are never what may be called cheap fish. In season from November to May. Smelts which have been split and dried are called sparlings.
Another fish which is cheap and plentiful in the winter months is the haddock. They seldom weigh more than from three to four pounds, and the largest are considered the best. They should be gutted as soon as possible, and hung up to dry with salt inside them. Scotch haddock have the highest reputation.
Among lesser known fish are the gurnet, dory, and ling. All of them are excellent eating. The dory resembles the turbot in flavour, and the gurnet has firm white flesh, of agreeable taste. In the early spring months ling is captured in large quantities off the Orkney and Shetland Isles.
Skate and plaice are both less thought of in England than they deserve to be; in France they are better appreciated. Skate improves by being hung up for a day before using. Young skate are called "maids," and their flesh is tender and delicate.
Plaice is in good condition when the body is thick and firm, the eyes bright, and the pale side tinged with pink.
Hake, or "white salmon," is a west-country fish, common in Devonshire. In season in the autumn months.
Eels and lampreys, very rich, and not over wholesome, are mostly food for the epicure. They are useful in cookery where a succulent dish is required. The lamprey is but little met with in the present day.
THE COOKING OF FISH.
The recipes given in this part have been gleaned from reliable sources. Many of them are from French cooks, and are strictly in accordance with the methods in use in the best "cuisines," where the cooking of fish receives great care and attention.
For greater convenience in reference the recipes for preparing the different kinds of fish are all classed under the name of each kind, and the names given in alphabetical order.
Perhaps the only ways of properly cooking fish are baking and broiling, yet these are precisely the ways least practised—out of France. Boiling and frying have hitherto held too great a monopoly in our methods. In the following pages, while giving the latter modes their due share of attention, we beg to call for special notice to be given to the examples for broiling, &c., as they may be relied upon to bring about a satisfactory result if carefully followed.
To begin with a few general directions:
In broiling a perfectly clear fire is absolutely indispensable; more so in the case of fish than when intending to cook steak or chops. A shovel-full of good cinders, slightly wetted, and given sufficient time to become red-hot, will generally ensure a good surface heat, but a charcoal "braisière" is par-excellence the fire for this purpose, and no French housewife considers her kitchen complete without this little contrivance. A little charcoal sprinkled over some hot coals is not a bad substitute for it.
A special gridiron should be kept for fish only. After using, let it be thoroughly washed and dried, and before using again rub the bars over with a little oil; fish is more easily marked, and apt to stick sooner than meat.
If the gridiron is not a double one, use a pair of sugar-tongs with which to turn the fish over; beware of sticking a fork into it. There can be no doubt that grilling brings out a flavour which nothing else will.
What can surpass a fresh mackerel, grilled after being split open and boned?
An important point to bear in mind in this method of cookery is, to keep in the flavour. A slice of grilled salmon will taste far nicer if the slice has been wrapped in buttered paper; but cooking anything in paper requires the greatest care, as should there be the least flare the paper will catch fire,—what is required is a fierce heat.
When baking fish en papillot, that is wrapped in buttered paper, the chief thing to bear in mind is not to spare the butter. This, one of the most delicate and delicious ways of cooking fish, is apt to be entirely spoilt, because only a little dab of butter is allowed. When fish has been cooked in paper it should be sent to table just as it is, paper and all. Always use plain white note paper, never printed.
In boiling fish a very common fault is omitting to put sufficient salt into the water. In the case of large fish, salt should be added in the proportion of half a pound to a gallon of water; for smaller fish, a proportion of a quarter-pound to the gallon is sufficient.
It is now generally thought best to place fish in nearly boiling water, then allow it to come gently to the boiling point again, this keeps in the flavour on the same principle as the boiling of meat. The time allowed depends entirely on the size of the fish, but when the flesh shows signs of being just able to be separated from the bone, it is amply done.
Experience is the only safe guide.
To preserve the whiteness of white fish, it is wise to rub them over with lemon-juice before boiling.
One method of boiling fish, when it is intended for eating cold, which is much approved of on the Continent, is to do it in "court-bouillon," and if fresh-water fish be cooked this way it is relieved of much of its insipidity.
One part of vinegar, one part of red wine, to four parts of water, for the "bouillon." To two quarts of the liquor put an ounce of salt, half an ounce of pepper, a bunch of savoury herbs, a sliced onion and a carrot. Sometimes a small piece of salt bacon is also added. Let these all boil together for some time, then strain the liquor and keep in a stone jar. It will keep a long time if occasionally re-boiled.
The fish should be well covered with the liquid when laid in the fish-kettle, and allowed to boil gradually.
To fry fish successfully it should be literally boiled in fat. This cannot be done over a slow or smoky fire, neither can it be done unless an abundance of fat be allowed. It is not an extravagant method, even if the pan be a large one, and it takes two or three pounds to fill it. If carefully poured into a basin containing boiling water after the fish has been cooked, the loose breadcrumbs and other particles will fall to the bottom, and the fat form a clear white crust. When due care is exercised there is no reason why the same fat