Fab fish: flat and round fish fabrication

When I was younger we ate chicken for dinner, a lot.  My mother was one of those home cooks that had 100 different chicken recipes up her sleeve.  The fact that we ate it at least twice a week growing up is probably why I rarely cook it at home.  My favorite part about being in the kitchen with my mother on chicken night was that she let me play “butcher” with the gizzards.  Once my mother had her pieces cut she would give me the leftovers and a little knife and I would pretend to be a butcher, hacking away at the remainder of our bird with wild abandon.  I was probably about nine years old at the time.  I forgot I used to do that until the other day when we practiced poultry fabrication in class.  I guess I was destined to be a chef from a young age.

So you can imagine my excitement when it came time to learn fish fabrication in class this week.  I’ve always wanted to buy whole fish and butcher it myself but was afraid of doing it incorrectly and wasting precious flesh.  Now that I have a good foundation on fish fab, I’ll be buying whole fish at my local Seafood City on a regular basis (yes, it’s a real place where they sell whole fish packed on ice).  You can’t beat the freshness of whole fish.

For fabrication purposes, there are basically two kinds of fish you need to worry about: flat fish (e.g. sole, flounder, halibut) and round fish (e.g. salmon, tuna).  With flat fish, you get 2 filets per side, 4 total.  With round fish you get 1 filet per side, 2 total.  I won’t get into how to filet a fish here (but if you’re interested there’s a pretty good demo from Le Cordon Bleu of a round fish fabrication here and a flat fish demo here).  But I did get my hands dirty and when I was through nary a morsel was left on the bone.  After we tackled our sole, we made sole meunier with beurre blanc (white butter) sauce.  The sole was delicate, complimented nicely by the rich butter/wine sauce.

fish-fab-2-of-7 fish-fab-4-of-7

For the salmon we tried our hand at poaching (one of the 7 French cooking techniques).  fish-fab-3-of-7 I created a court bouillon (flavored broth with white wine and mirepoix, see it on the stove at right, before straining) and poached the salmon in the strained bouillon until it was perfectly pink and still slightly transluscent in the center. We served that with sauteed zucchini (admire my knife cuts, please) and rice pilaf.  To the left is my classmate fabricating our salmon.  He filleted one side and I did the other.  Then we portioned out our large and beautiful fish for the entire class.  Since I did the cutting and I didn’t have time to go grocery shopping for dinner today, I snuck a few extra pieces for myself to make for Big N.  (It’s called practice, not stealing).  Dinner tonight? You guessed it.  More poached salmon.  Yum. fish-fab-5-of-7



  1. […] boring prefabricated fillets because I was too scared to fillet them myself.  Now that I’ve dabbled in fish fabrication, I march right up to the fish monger and say, with total […]