In this video, Josh Nilandgives a masterclass on how to break down a fish head into useable components like the eyes, tongue, throat and cheeks that can be used in a whole range of delicious recipes.
The masterclass is made available by Anchored Outdoors and is part of a series in which the Australian chef details how to break down an entire fish, referencing his phenomenally successful book The Whole Fish Cookbook and the philosophy he employs at his Sydney restaurant Saint Peter that has made him a leading expert on fish butchery.
There, Niland has managed to reduce the waste associated with fish to just 9% (the gills, gallbladder, and pyloric caeca), from the usual 55% found at most other restaurants.
Starting with the head, Niland removes the eye, being careful not to puncture it as that can render the components of the organ stringy. Niland suggests collecting fish eyes and keeping them in a freezer bag in the freezer until you have enough to work with.
Fish eyeballs may not be the most appetising part for the average westerner so Niland suggests blending them and mixing with tapioca flour, then spreading thinly and dehydrating in a low-temperature oven. Then, he says, deep-fry for a prawn cracker-like chip that can be used in various dishes.
The fish head can be roasted whole and presents many opportunities for spicing and seasoning, borrowing from Asian or traditional roasting spices. Niland shows us how to butcher the head by separating a couple of muscles out from the cheek area. The jowl contains the meat that can be turned into a fish guanciale.
The throat and the tongue are removed here by Niland, with very interesting and unusual cuts. The throat is gelatinous and can be cooked in verjus and reduced down. Niland recommends spreading throats on toast and with just a touch of salsa verde and salt – "heaven", he says.
The tongue is cooked in verjus, then floured, egg washed and deep-fried to create a small, but delicious canapé, while the interior cheek of the fish yields wonderful dark flesh that offers many opportunities for recipe development.
Below, take a look at another masterclass by Nilandshowing us how to scale a fish. Inspired by Japanese Edomae methods, he cuts the scales from the fish as a way to preserve the flesh and keep the right consistency.
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