Table of Contents:
1: Stocking Up – making a really good fish stock from striped bass and clams.
2: Roe Roe Roe Your Boat – a quick snack and a condiment for breakfast.
PART I. Stocking Up
I am figuring on making my fish recipes get milage along with bang for their buck. I recently watched this video from the Healthy Home Economist, and decided to adapt the principles I’d been lacking in my own fish-stock-making ventures. Actually, mine have been soup-making ventures, this is going towards actual STOCK. Check out her video here: Worth the look. She uses a really large red snapper head for the stock base. I went for an ocean-going stripped bass. (Hers is also ocean-going, but stripped bass gets a better plug from Seafood Watch regards sustainability than does red snapper…) What she recommends is that one use not use a fatty fish such as salmon for stock as after four hours of rendering down, it may turn bitter. Since this is the first time I’ve turned my fish bones/heads into true stock (as opposed to shorter-term cooked soups that only needed an hour-ish of simmering time) this is something to be aware of. On the other hand, I have heard that the gill area inside a fish is what turns it bitter, so in the past I always removed it before simmering it to its final soupy destination. On a salmon head, this is not without risks to ones’ own flesh, and I will also note that here on the northeast coast of America, all the salmon fish heads I was ever able to procure have been from “Atlantic” farmed salmon. So maybe another good reason not to use this fish…)
Okay, I procured my wild-sourced ocean-going striped bass from the Atlantic Market, Main Street, Danbury Connecticut. In the interests of honesty, I had to go back for a second fish, for reasons I’ll shortly detail. Select your fish in part by the look of its eyes. If they’re sunken or dried, it’s likely old.
I brought fish number one home Friday after work. The dedicated workers there had scaled and gutted my fish, and when I got home, I filleted it with reasonable success. My plans for the boneless body and flesh are to make cheviche. I put the backbone and associated major bones into the stock pot, along with the head. The flesh got turned into freezer food. I added a bottle of clam juice to the mix, and after ten minutes of simmering, not wanting good cheek meat to go to perdition, I ate that, then returned the entire remainders to simmering (I thought) while I went to check my e-mail and perform other on-line pursuits.
Water boiled off, because I’d forgotten to reduce the heat to SIMMER, and I ended up with an inedible burnt mass of bleah. I tossed this. The pot cleaned up fine, the damage had not been happening long enough to be critical to my cookware.
Okay, today, Sunday, I returned to the Atlantic Market, armed with a few recipes for Southeastern Asian ingredients I didn’t have, as well as for another striped bass. They de-scaled and de-gutted again, as usual. While the fishmonger worked, I picked up lemongrass and galangal root and coconut milk. I went home.
Discovered a couple dangly things hanging out of the gut area of the cleaned fish when I went to prep this one. Hmm, there was only one other customer in the store when I was there early morning, so it couldn’t mean a distracted fishmonger. Perhaps this was a gift?? Somehow, they reminded me of shad roe, just different, so in case the cleaner had decided I might want striped bass roe, I saved the dangly things aside in the fridge for a later-day Internet search.
The second filetting came out ugly; I’m glad this meat is being reserved and frozen away for cheviche, rather than for a nice grilling or baking.
The stock is about ready, I let it simmer about four hours as suggested on the aforementioned website. The scent is not fishy at all. It smells like a stock but like something warm and inviting, with overlays of onion.
To make (this time at a simmer):
First, simmer/steam cherrystone clams (1 dozen in this case). When they open and after a couple minutes, remove the clams from the broth. Remove clams from shells and reserve for future uses. Let clam broth settle for 5-10 minutes then pour off the top part to a new cooking pan. This will keep behind sand and grit, which you will dispose of. Wipe off any foam that may adhere to shells that were steamed.
New pot: reserved clam broth, clam shells, clam juice (it was commercial, but read ingredients first, this one was just juice and a little salt) should you decide to use. Head and backbone, skin and major bones from striped bass that you or your fishmonger has filleted for you. Simmer until foam rises. REMOVE FOAM. (this is the second major input I got from the Healthy Home Economist site mentioned above). Foam will make things bitter. If you have a hankering for cheek meat, remove the cheek meat for a small quick snack after about ten minutes of simmering, but return the rest of the head to the mixture. If you don’t, pay this suggestion no mind, but the cheek meat I can assure you is worth the price of admission on most fish. Put about 1/3 a large onion (white or yellow) in chunks into the pot, but AFTER you remove the foam. Onion rises and floats. Best not to have it interfere with ease of foam removal. (Can you tell I did the opposite?)
The Healthy Home Economist recommends not adding anything, including onion, but since I cannot remotely foresee any future use for stock without onion, I put it in. I’ll just do it after foam removal in the future.
Simmer the mix for about 4 hours, checking often to see it new water is needed. I am indeed looking forward to seeing how this will turn out, since I’ve never cooked fish material this long. Still, no fishy odor developing at any timepoint; I think this will be a keeper. At the end, your best bet is to strain through cheesecloth, but, lacking cheesecloth as I did, strain through a sieve or a fine-holed colander. Throw out the bits, they no longer taste like anything.
Use as stock for soup or whatever, or freeze for a future inspiration.
RATING: 5 out of 5.
PART II. Roe Roe Roe Your Boat
I found a photo of cooked striped bass roe here: and decided I did have roe after all, not liver or something else, and proceeded to cook the one lobe for a quick snack while the stock above continued to simmer. A little lemon juice, a little extra virgin olive oil, and a small skillet, and it was ready in a minute or two. It didn’t pop all over the place, like shad roe does, either. So, Monday morning I decided to have it with my egg. It probably won’t replace bacon in the hearts of Americans everywhere, but with a dab of sesame oil, a small clove of garlic, some fresh spinach and a farm fresh egg, sprinkled over with cracked black pepper, it was quite delectable. The texture is creamy, not at all gritty, and the flavor is pleasant and subtle. If you get enough of these, this would make an acceptable spread.
RATING: 5 out of 5.