Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 4: Striped Bass Anatomy Lesson

Today's fish experiment was really fun and interesting. Professor Berman brought in a striped bass he had caught the night before and he filleted it, with a little bit of help from Clinton. We learned that a striped bass has 2 dorsal fins, 2 pectoral fins, 1 stern fin, 2 lower fins, and one tail making 8 fins total. Professor scraped off a few of the fish scales in order to soften the fish and make it easier to make an initial cut. He held up a scale and told us that each scale has rings and similar to how rings on a tree tell of it's age, so do the rings on a fish's scales. However the scale of year to ring is not the same. Professor estimated that our fish was about 5 years old. I also believe he later mentioned it was a female and that had he been able to tell much earlier then he may not have kept her, but I would rather someone double check that observation of mine.

I learned a great deal of information about fish today, including what the inside of one looks like, where the organ sack is, as well as to make sure you do not open the sack while cutting out the meat you wish to eat, because there are toxins in the fish's stomach. I also got to feel the inside of the fish's mouth and was surprised at how parts of the tongue were quite hard and actually had the same "teeth" that were on the edges of the mouth. Speaking of which the bass teeth are more like really scratchy velcro or a nail file almost. You can tell by the inside of the mouth that the fish's tactic for eating is to swallow the organism whole rather than chew them up. I also learned how to tell a fish is fresh, if the eyes are very white and clear then that is a good sign the fish is fresh, also if you are looking at the meat you want the fat portion of the meat, the red part, to be red not brown--which it turns over time. Also, if you take a fish out of the water and it has algae on it's side then put it back, that is a sign the water is not clean. You always fish out of clean water says Professor Berman.

After having filleted our fish Professor Berman cut it up and prepared two different fish meals, one is ceviche, with cilantro and lots of lime juice, while the other was striped bass sushi! I prefer the ceviche ;) But I'm not much of a raw-fish-eater either. I did however try the sushi and it was very good, you could tell the fish was fresh and it didn't have that "fishy" taste--thank God! The ceviche was really good too though, it was spicy, actually that's a bit of an under statement, it had a big kick. It may have been better if we had something else to balance it out--pallet wise-- but none the less it was delectable. My favorite part was seeing how just the acid in the lime had cooked the outside of the fish. It was so cool! I had no idea lime & lemon juice did that to meat so I was really impressed.

Professor Berman cut the fillet into pieces and (almost) everyone took one to take home to prepare for themselves tonight. I hope everyone's came out well! I must say this was one of my favorite classes... it was just really cool, it caught the attention of everyone. It was fun to see the whole class, which clearly has a large range of students age-wise, all become 5 year olds in a matter of minutes, wanting to touch the fish, ask questions, see if we can find the brain, take the eye out, see what's in the stomach, or feel the lips and teeth. It was a lot of fun. :)

Fish time! I say this separately, because I had to wait until after my family and I finished our regularly scheduled dinner in order to do this serving. It was worth the wait though!

Below is a picture of the ingredients I used to prepare the fish, the striped bass itself literally still in the plastic baggy from class, lime, a Limon Pepper rub that can be used on close to all meats including fish, and finally the Fire & Flavor cedar paper.

Preparation time! So here we have three main steps. (Although one I missed the first time around and had to go back and do so technically there are four, but I have only depicted three).
First Step: Cut a piece of lime, tenderize the fish meat with a fork--so the juice & rub soak into the fish--and squeeze the lime over both side of the fish.
Second Step: Smooth the Limon Pepper rub over both sides of the fish. How heavy you apply your rub depends on the cook! My mother was helping me out with this part and she has a heavy hand when it comes to spices so we covered the whole fish! Looking back now, I would have put a bit less on... the Limon Pepper rub has a smaaaall "kick" to it!
Fake Third Step: You soak the cedar wrap in paper for 10 min. this was my first time using the wrap, and neither myself or my father knew you were supposed to soak the wrap, so we missed that step the first time around, but it was simply to fix we just rinsed off the wrap and let it sit.
Third Step: Place the fish in the cedar wrap, wrap it up, and tie it with string to hold it together on the stove. What I found was the easiest strategy here was to place the fish at one end of the wrap and roll it to the other side. I did not depict that strategy below, but that is what I did.

*notice how the fish in the picture on the right is more white than the fish in the center. (I know it's hard to see, sorry) When I had to let the wrap soak and let the fish sit with the lime juice and limon pepper rub already on it the lime juice started to cook the fish just like it did in class! :)

At this point I put the wrap on the pan and let it cook! The wrap is soaked in water for 10 min. before the fish is put in it, so it started to smoke nicely and cook the bass inside, keeping it nice a moist. The cedar wrap seems to steam the fish. When the wrap started to burn a bit on the edges I flipped it and did the other side and when the same burning appeared--and the fish inside started to look like I saw a bit of browning--I took it out. It was perfect timing somehow the fish was not burnt at all (as you will see below).

Here I first opened the cedar wrap to expose our fish, looks pretty good right? It smelt pretty good too!

After letting it sit for a minute I went to open the fish up a but and literally the pieces were so moist and tender, but fluffy from the steaming/smoking that they just fell apart when I touched them with the knife.

The fish was delicious. I unfortunately did put on too much of the Limon Pepper rub, so it definitely had a "kick" to it, but if I just scraped it off the top so I wasn't getting the pepper right away, then it was great. I really liked this meal, it was my first time using the cedar wraps and the rub, and I will definitely be doing this again.

Thanks for the great fish Professor!

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