We know that a lot of the fish in the store is farmed, and we’ve heard all the horror stories about how awful that is, and I imagine those stories to be mostly true, albeit a wee bit Chicken Little-ish. The fact remains, I love trout, and all fish, wild OR farmed. Some of the farmed salmon looks kind of weak and pale, but, I remind myself, the vivid pink color is caused by dye that the producers put in the food. In the wild, that color is produced as the result of the wild salmon’s diet, too. Oh well, one more romantic notion dashed.
I’ve put my 10K hours in, so cooking a whole fish, or a piece of fish, doesn’t intimidate me. Even so, I take the advice of the French and chew the fish in the FRONT of my mouth, making bones much easier to detect, spit out, and avoid choking on. It may sound indelicate, but, no more so than writhing on the floor while others throw glasses of ice water at you. Of course, that’s about the worst thing you can do to a choking victim. Let’s not digress.
The temperature model for processing trout, and most fin fish, is quite different than for land and air dwelling creatures. Some practitioners start as low as 107F, and, depending on its thickness, limit the duration of processing to an hour. The result is usually described as being raw in appearance, but cooked in mouth feel.
Just How Safe Is it?
Usually, I prefer temperatures starting closer to 122F, which provides a more familiar end result. Above 127F, the fish may develop a thin white accumulation of albumin on its surface, which is harmless, and easily removed with a clean, moist towel.
It is perfectly OK to prepare fish at as high a temperature as you like, and a lot of people like. I know people that insist on using 165F as their standard, and they’re fully entitled to that preference. There are some Armenian recipes that bring fish temperatures above 180F, via deep frying. I’ve had it, it was pretty good, as long as you had a lot of tartar sauce nearby. Again, safe.
As long as it’s safe, everything else is merely a matter of preference. There really IS no accounting for taste, no matter what others may say. If you like ketchup on your fish, there’s no shame in that. I’ve done it. There was no knock on the door in the middle of the night.
DIVE! DIVE! DIVE!
There are other temperature/time models, too. One of the earliest Sous Vide methods, especially applicable to the restaurant environment, calls for simply pouring boiling water over the bagged fish, and letting it rest in the water until it hits 140F (the water). This is actually a variation on the classic French dish “Truite au Bleu.” Simply applied, your fish should be done in 10 minutes, but you can leave it sit for quite a while longer before you serve it. This is really handy if you’re working in a restaurant, because it goes fast, but you don’t have to serve it at PRECISELY the moment it’s “done.” Your guest may not have finished their salad yet!
This method actually comes very close to pasteurization, depending mostly on the thickness of the fish and the amount of water in relation to it. The more water in the vessel, the more slowly the temperature will decline. This is the approach that I actually prefer, typically. It’s as close to “set it and forget it” as you’re going to get in Sous Vide Fish.
Trout Or Consequences
I always wanted to say that.
- Less than $3/fish, and one is an adequate portion, so that has some appeal.
- The familir Ziploc Gallon bag, and the displacement method to remove excess air.
- This pic represents, but, in no way, resembles, furiously boiling water.
- The fish wouldn’t actually quite fit in the pan without bending, so I used this plastic vessel.
- I used the Lipavi rack to keep it submerged.
- I don’t plan on using this plate to serve, but there’s a good reason to bone your fish on a plate, as you will see.
- Dry off the bag.
- Lay the fish on the plate.
- This is a good time to remove the head, the tail, and the conspicuous fins. Back in the day, we all learned how to do this with a tablespoon, and I really believe that’s the best way.
- I remove all that debris as I go, so it doesn’t work its way back into the presentation.
- It’s possible to remove the skin with your fingers, but the tablespoon is really what works best.
- Even so, I gave it a whirl from both ends.
- There’s going to be specks, trout skin is extremely delicate, not to worry.
- Run the spoon down the middle just until it hits the bone, this separates the meat at the seam.
- So you can gently pull apart the top half of the fish.
- This is the fun part, so easy. Calmly grab hold of the bone at either end, and gently pull on it. If the fish is properly cooked, there’s really nothing to it.
- Keep pulling. The bone will not usually break, but, even if it does, just grab again.
- This is about as good as it gets.
- See how the fish underneath the bone remains completely intact.
- I pull out the top pieces a little bit, so I can flip the bottom piece and remove the skin.
- Again, it’s intuitive to split it lengthwise.
- That time, the skin came off with the finger method.
- Now, you can slide your fish onto a nice clean plate.
- Parsley before, parsley after, parsley, parsley, parsley. A couple of pieces of crisped pain perdu.
- The exquisitely simple brown butter, a few drops of Worcestershire for Umami, few drops of white vinegar this time. Lemon juice is good, too. Acid. Little bit of acid.
- A slightly different garnish, a turned potato and a little tomato fig salad…
- Sous Vide moist, and I really dig those colors.
- In the background, creamed corn au gratin.
- One sign of success, among several.
- The pain perdu absorbs the last few drops of butter.
- Stacked and staged to the sink.