A big thank you to Seattle Chefs Collaborative member, Jon Rowley of Taylor Shellfish Farms, for contributing today’s post on how to handle your fish for maximum quality and presentation.
When it comes to “beautiful tastes,” there is perhaps none more beautiful than the taste of fish when the season, harvest, handling and preparation all come together… when we are lucky to taste a fish as good as it can be.
How a fish is caught and handled during its first three hours out of the water determines its eating qualities, at least that is what I found after I started paying attention to the relationship of flavor to fish handling on my own salmon troller in SE Alaska, studying hook-and-line fishing methods in different parts of the U.S. and Europe and working with chefs and fishermen conjointly to correlate what happens on deck with what happens in the pan and on the palate. The concept is simple but it took something like 10 years for the light bulb to go off.
Hook-and-line gear (longline, troll, jig, rod and reel) offers the potential for the highest quality fish because they come aboard and can be dealt with individually. Here are the steps I have found that produce the highest quality, best tasting and most beautiful fish.
- As soon as the fish come aboard or even before, the fish is stunned by a sharp blow to the top of the head. The heart is still pumping but the fish won’t flop and bruise itself and we can prevent the lactic acid build-up associated with struggle. The stunning step also prevents scale loss. Scale coverage is essential to the manufacture of protective slime when rigor mortis sets in. Complete scale coverage makes for beautiful, shiny fish and is probably the best indicator of how well a fisherman has handled the fish.
Comments, questions for Jon? Post them in the comment section below.