Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tapping into Ancient Roots...Preservation of Fish/ Whole Fish-Bone Broth

Last summer, I could proudly say that I had consumed more fish during those several months, than I had for the whole year; perhaps as much as two.  I have a family of  recreational fishermen, including a brother in law, whose proclamation is that of an  "Angler".  He is quite efficient I might add, an avid hunter as well, who affords me the wonderful wild game by seasons from squirrels to wild turkeys to venison, plus volumes of striped bass and catfish with heads the size of small children, yeah he's good.
Another brother in law favors striped bass, wall eyed bass and perch.  On any given day off during the summer, he would set out mid morning or evening to bring  back the catch of the day.
During last summer, my sister Gayle and I would clean anywhere from 25 to 50 fish collectively, maybe two or three times throughout the weekend; scaling, butterflying and soaking, frying some fresh and bagging and freezing piles for later.
I like to consider days like that live labs of sorts, helping me hone my skills and efficiency, making me a stronger chef .
I try my hand at fishing, licensed and all , but I haven't reeled any in yet!  I even accompanied the guys on some of the bait runs. We meet up with another avid fisherman, usually late night or early morning because of how the dams and bait run, who travels extensively for the ritual of catching the infamous 'shiner' or"'LY's" which are a small and plentiful bait fish, found also in schools and near rocks at the dams and lakes.  Larger fish called shad are also a part of the haul, but aren't as sought after as the smaller previously mentioned bait, but finds itself in the throw nets.
When meeting with the bait-man, he pulls out a large cooler.  Upon opening the lid, he reveals hundreds of these small and fresh beauties, glistening with ice, lustrous, all their tiny eyes are clear and they smell fresh, not fishy!
I was stoked and reminded of the photos of fishermen from other countries and their baskets or small boats of fresh fish, on their way to market, home or both.  I was reminded of the sardine and other fishes feasted upon regularly in Italy and the Mediterranean, or packed in salt and dried along the African Coasts.  I wanted to see if they were as palatable as the similar ones I'd seen.  I wanted to see why we weren't eating those too!  The fishermen chuckled when I said, I want some to take back home to the lab,  that being my kitchen. I was inspired instantly and set to work.
The above photos illustrate what I did with the larger shad, about 4 or 5 inches long.
 I scaled and gutted them all, rinsed and sprinkled them with kosher salt.
I placed them in a 200 degree convection oven for around 6 hours, until they were completely dry.
I let the fish cool out in the open for about 1 hour.
I then broke the fish up into manageable pieces and used my mortar and pestle to turn the whole fish into a powder.
 I mixed the powder with a mug of hot water and drank it.  I also added it to my Ramen bowls.
  I finally had a lasting fish stock on hand, and it's shelf life was extended considerably! I keep the fish whole in a zip lock type bag, and pulverize when I need them.  I dried these fish last summer and they are still wonderfully intact and I get to drink  a whole fish anytime and reap the benefits of the whole thing, wasting none and loving the copious amounts of goodness it is for my mind, body and soul.  Oh, the fishermen were amazed at what I came up with, they added some credits to my resourcefulness, and were reminded of yet another reason I was good to have around!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Turnips Gratin a la Jarlsberg

There once was a turnip in a garden.  The owner of the garden watched the turnip, that was planted last season, grow... long after the harvest of the others like it.  The turnip grew and grew as the summer turned to fall, then winter.  The owner would peer out into the now barren garden space and see the bright green tops beaming valiantly above the cold and lonely ground.  The owner watched the snow fall and cover the turnip. The owner watched the rays from the sun shine and melt the snow away.  The owner thought about pulling it up and mashing it with potatoes.  The owner thought about this for months. 
 One day the owner did indeed pull up the turnip and headed inside to make good on the thoughts the turnip had evoked. The turnip was huge by any standard, but slightly disfigured on one side.  The injury had probably happened when the turnip was just a 'pup', marring it and affecting it's normal growth.  The turnip healed it's wounds inflicted by the garden tool used to work the soil, but also gained an appearance much like that of a cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites.  By a supermarket standard this turnip was not a winner.  The turnip was not acceptable.   Something in the owner made her keep going past the back stairs of her home and down the lane to her sister, who once made an amazing soup from turnips and leeks.   The owner decided that this was a job for a person who liked challenges. 
You probably guessed it already, I'm the neighbor and here is what I did with this turnip.
This was a large turnip so, I had to peel and slice first before parboiling for 15 minutes in salted water with a splash of organic vinegar and a bay leaf.  After par boiling the turnips, I shocked them in cold water, then medium diced the turnips.  The regular supermarket turnips will most likely only be a fraction of this size, (this one being about the size of a grapefruit) so these extensive steps may not be necessary.

6 cups diced and par-cooked turnips, about 5 minutes
1/3 c. thinly sliced onion
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1 tbsp. or less olive oil 
1/2 c. shredded Jarlsberg cheese
Chives for garnish
2 tbsp. cooked crumbled bacon for garnish, optional 
Turn on broiler.
Heat oil and butter on medium high heat and add turnips, onions and turmeric.
Continue to cook, stirring and tossing constantly until the turnips show signs of browning on most sides, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and spread into oven safe dish.  Garnish with bacon.
Sprinkle cheese evenly over top, then chives and place under broiler until slightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings.

For more wonderful turnip recipes, search "turnips" on this site!