Tidbits #11 – The Perfect Filet (Or is it fillet?)

McDonalds filet of fish sandwichNo, not that Filet-O-Fish but actual fish fillet…  And I will admit it – Jenna and I love winding down a long day after our putting our son to bed with a nice glass of wine and watching the Food Network.  After 10 years of blissful marriage, somehow ESPN got replaced by TFN…   Go figure…

giada delaurentis bobby flay rachel rayNo we don’t watch shows by Giada de Laurentis or Rachel Ray, rather edgy episodes like ChoppedWorst Cooks in America and No Reservations.  By the way, I read somewhere that Giada’s show is one of the most taped and watched program by male college undergrads.  But that’s for another post…

Anyway, during a recent Worst Cooks episode, a contestant displayed a look of horror when presented with a whole fish.  Her comments – Whole Foods always has fillets, I don’t know what to do with this thing.  I’ve butchered plenty of my catches in the past so perhaps I should not be writing this post, but I’ve purchased enough whole fish at Fulton Fish Market to sort of know what to do with an entire fish…  Fairly straight forward, According to Juan from the fish market.

  • Initial incision should be right behind the gills next to the collarbone.  As soon as you feel the spine, stop cutting depth-wise.
  • Run your knife along the spine all the way to the tail – while conventional wisdom says knife should not be too sharp as to cut into the spine, I’ve had much better luck with sharper knives.
  • Lay the fillet skin-side down and cut out the ribs first then followed by the skin.
  • Here is the professional’s such as Juan’s secret – run the back of your blade from nose to tail to encourage the pin bones to pop up – then pluck them with tweezers, your fingers or whatever is handy next to you.
  • Goes without saying – repeat on both sides of the fish.

My rule of thumb – unlike red meat, never take out the fat off of your fillet.  That is where all the flavors lie…   Besides, fish fat is not as bad as red meat fat (full disclaimer – I am not a doctor).  Lastly, asides from having a really sharp fillet knife, speed or lack thereof is key to good fileting, e.g. take your time.

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About Richard Lee
Experienced finance and operations professional. Currently partner in five companies, adjunct professor of economics at Columbia College and executive contributor to a small business blog (www.SMBmatters.com); following corporate finance, M&A and management consulting tenures with Orbitz and Diamond Technology Partners; and six years of service with the United States Army.

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