This is the third article in March of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on March 17, 1907, and is a discussion on preparing fish for Lent.
Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Boston Sunday Post.
Different Ways of Preparing Fish
EVEN if one is not a rigid churchman who eschews meat for Lent, it is well to have fish play an important part in the spring diet. Though we may not pin our faith to the old theory that fish food is brain food, we can be assured that the phosphates it contains and its digestible qualities prove very beneficial to the physical system that is relaxed by enervating spring days.
Not every one. Unfortunately, likes fish, but, if possible, the taste for it should be cultivated. Probably if we were compelled to live on it, as were the old Homeric heroes, we might be inclined to complain as bitterly as did Menelaus; but as an occasional article of diet it should have a place in every family’s weekly menu.
Nothing affords greater relief to the housekeeper sore beset by that ever-re current thought, “What shall I give them to eat today?” than to have a family with a strong liking for fish. So fortified, she can provide soup or salad, a boiled or broiled or baked second course for dinner, croquettes or scallops for an entree, and even the “piece de resistance” of the family lunch. She can be happy, moreover, in the fact that she is feeding her flock with a healthful, digestible food.
Guides to Selection
“But,” some one cries, “I cannot digest fish. Nothing disagrees with me more quickly!” Which stats should be attributed to some personal idiosyncrasy; to improper selection of the fish itself; to carelessness in preparation, or to bad methods of cooking, rather than to wholesale condemnation of a fish dietary.
For whatever the exceptional person say, fish is both digestible and nourishing to the majority of people. Where could one find greater health and vigor, for instance, than in the small fishing settlements where little or no animal food is obtainable?
Of course, not every kind of fish has equal value in this respect; the amount of nourishment varies with the species. Thus, red-fleshed fish, such as salmon, are more nutritious than the white-fleshed, the latter, however, being more digestible. Cod proves the exception to this rule. The homely and cheap herring, strange to say, possesses more nourishment than almost say other fish.
Flabby Fish Are Stale.
Not every ore is a good buyer of fish. Too many housekeepers trust so implicitly to dealer for selection that they cannot tell if a fish is fresh or stale. Yet really it not very difficult to acquire this knowledge. A fresh fish should feel stiff and rigid—flabbiness is a sure sign of staleness. The grills should be red and the eyes bright and unsunken. These are much better tests than to judge by the smell in these days of cold storage. If, on beings purchased, a fish is not found to be quite up to the mark, it can be somewhat improved by washing in vinegar and water.
Nothing is more disgusting to a careful housewife than a badly cleaned fish. Nowadays one usually buys them ready cleaned; but even so, it is important to go over them carefully before putting away. Holding the fish by the head, scrape with a sharp knife to remove all scales, then either wash in cold water or wipe all over with a clean, damp cloth. It is a mistake to immerse a fish very long in water, even for the purpose of cleaning, and it is apt to destroy the flavor.
The after-treatment of the fish depends chiefly upon the way it is to be cooked. Probably more people fail in boiling it than any other method. Always, if possible, use a fish kettle with a strainer, to avoid danger of breaking. The time-honored method of tying the fish in muslin and placing it on a plate at the bottom of a large kettle is, however, not to be despised. Boil it in as little water as possible, and except in case of salmon, which requires boiling water, put the fish into lukewarm water, as the high temperature tends to break the skin, and with cold water much of the flavor is lost.
The length of time for cooking varies with the weight of the fish. One can usually tell when it is done by the flesh separating from the bone. It can scarcely cook too slowly, however, and, after being brought to the boiling point, should simmer gently for the rest of the time. On removing, strain carefully, and keep covered until ready for use. If lemon juice or vinegar is added to the water in which white fish is cooked, the color is improved.
Half the success of the boiled fish depends upon its dressing and serving. Either a white cream sauce, with hard-boiled eggs, or a Hollandaise sauce are the most popular. A parsley sauce, or one made of a good handful of spinach or watercress, pounded and rubbed through a fine sieve, heated over the fire with three tablespoonfuls of cream, one dessertspoonful of tarragon vinegar, yolks of two eggs, salt and pepper until it is light and frothy, makes a pleasant change.
Always serve, a boiled fish in a folded napkin and garnish it with parsley, hard-boiled-eggs or if a little color is liked, with lobster coral.
Broiled fish next to planked is probably the most palatable way it can be served. There is a decided art, however, in broiling. The broiler must be absolutely clean and rubbed with suet to prevent sticking; the fire should be clear and bright, and the fish itself must be wiped perfectly dry and brushed over with oil or melted butter and well seasoned. To cook with the necessary slowness it is well to raise the broiler on two bricks. If the fire is inclined to smoke, throw on a handful of salt.
Planked fish are now in such favor that every aspiring housekeeper should own a plank. This should be of hard wood about two inches thick, and either grooved or slightly hollowed in the center to retain the juices, and furnished with clips or wires to fasten the fish to it. The plank must be heated before using. While the ideal way to plank is before an open fire, the upper grate of a very hot oven is a good substitute. Planking is usually associated with shad, but any good white-fleshed fish, as bluefish, whitefish or halibut, is equally good.
Frying is acknowledged the least digestible way to cook fish. It can, however, be dose deliciously if the fish is either rolled in flour or dipped in well seasoned egg and bread crumbs and done in very hot fat. The temperature should be slightly lower than when cooking such things as croquettes, whose interior has been previously prepared. Oil or cottolene is the best medium for frying, as lard is very apt to taste.
Besides these staple ways of preparing fish, delicious rechaufees, croquettes and salads be made from left-overs. Escalloped fish in little individual forms or shells are good either for a family lunch, or as a course at more formal affairs. It should always be served with sauce tartare, or, at least, with a rather acid mayonnaise.
Every one should own some of the interesting ides molds which now are very inexpensive. These five most attractive forms in which to prepare left-overs, or, indeed, new creamed fishes. The sauce in which the fish is prepared should always be a little stiffer than when it is not to be molded. A very attractive way to serve salmon, either fresh or canned is in timbale molds. It is also very artistic as a course for a dinner when chopped, creamed and molded in the shape of a huge curled fish and served on a flat platter, covered with caper sauce and garnished with parsley and lemon.
Various bisques and fist soups are excellent Lenten fare, and should be more generally used than they are, as should also fish salads, chowders and creams. We are not very well acquainted in this country with the fish pies of which the English are so fond, but they provide a quite delicious way to utilize cold fish and cold mashed potatoes.
Indeed, the variety in fish fare is very marked, and gives small reason for complaint, should this sea or fresh water food be a matter of daily or frequent occurrence on the family board.
Fish Recipes for Lenten Fare
A Left-Over Fish Bisque.
RID COLD baked, or boiled, or broiled fish of bones and skin, pick into fine bits with a silver fork. Get from your fish merchant for a few cents a pint of oyster liquor. Put over the fire, with a generous lump of butter, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil, add the fish, cook one minute and stir in a scant cupful of crumbs soaked in milk. Simmer for three minutes and serve. Pass sliced lemon with it.
Red Snapper Soup.
Heat a quart of white stock to a boil, stir in two cupfuls of the cold cooked fish, freed of skin and bones, and minced finely Add pepper, salt, a tablespoonful of chopped parsley and a great spoonful of butter. Heat a cupful of milk to boiling, thicken it with a white roux and a half cupful of fine cracker crumbs. When the fish has cooked in the soup for five minutes, stir the liquid into the thickened milk and serve.
Have your fish cleaned and split down the back. Wash and wipe dry. Have ready a clean oak or hickory plank about two and a half inches thick, and of such length that it will go readily into your oven. Set it in the oven till it is heated through. Rub your shad on both sides with an abundance of butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay it, open side up, on the hot plank, and fasten it firmly in place by putting a tin tack in each of the four corners. Lay the plank on the upper grating of the oven, and rub the fish with butter every few minutes until done. You can tell when this point is reached by testing with a fork. Carefully withdraw the tacks and serve the fish on a hot platter. Serve with melted butter and garnish with lemon and sprigs of parsley.
Shad Roe Croquettes.
Parboil and blanch. When perfectly cold break up and pass through a colander or vegetable press. Season with lemon juice, kitchen bouquet, paprika, and salt. Have ready a cup of rich, rather thick drawn butter. Stir the roe into it, and add a well-beaten egg together with a tablespoonful of fine bread crumbs to give the croquettes consistency. Let the mixture get perfectly cold, mold into croquettes, dip in egg and bread crumbs and leave on the ice over night. In the morning renew the crumbs and fry in deep, hissing fat, which has been brought gradually to a boil.
Flake cold boiled salmon and moisten it with a gill of a cream, a half gill of milk and two beaten eggs. Stir in a handful of fine crumbs, the juice of half a lemon, a tablespoonful of butter, salt and pepper to taste, and a tablespoonful of minced parsley. Mix thoroughly, turn into a greased pudding dish, and bake in a steady oven for three-quarters of an hour; then turn out upon a hot platter. Serve with a white sauce. This may also be boiled in a large covered fish mold.
A Curry of Salmon.
Open a can of salmon two hours before using and remove all bits of skin and bone. Pour two tablespoonfuls of olive oil to a frying-pan and fry in it a minced onion. When the onion is brown, stir into the oil a tablespoonful of flour mixed with a teaspoonful of curry powder, and when these are blended add a large coffeecupful of boiling water. Season and stir for a moment, and turn the salmon into the mixture. Cook for two minutes and serve. Pass sliced lemon with this dish.
Halibut Steak Baked With Tomatoes.
(A Creole recipe.)
Make a rich sauce of tomatoes, fresh or canned, seasoning with butter rolled in flour, sugar, pepper, onion juice, and salt, adding, if you have it, a sweet green pepper, seeded, and minced. Cook fifteen minutes, strain, rubbing through a colander, and cool. Lay the halibut in oil and lemon juice for an hour, place upon the grating of your covered roaster; pour the sauce over it; cover and take twelve minutes to the second if the oven be good. Sift Parmesan cheese over the fish and cook five minutes longer. Serve upon a hot dish, pouring the sauce over it.
Imitation Caper Sauce.
Cut cucumber pickles into tiny cubes with a sharp knife. Do not chop them, as the must be of uniform size. Drain perfectly dry and stir into hot drawn butter. Boll for one minute. Eat with fish or chops.
Beat the yolks of two eggs very light; put into a raised-bottom saucepan and set in one of boiling water; stir into it a few drops at a time, three tablespoonfuls of salad oil, beating as you stir; then, as gradually, the same quantity of boiling water; next, one tablespoonful of lemon juice, a dash of cayenne and salt.
This is served with all sorts of fish; also with chops, cutlets, and steaks.
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