Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jellied Catfish

Blog's Category: My Own Fast and Easy

If you ever fall victim of fisherman catch, you will understand where my inspiration come from. My brother with his father-in-law are dedicated fishermans. Huge catfishes from lake Erie are their usual catch. Yes, my brother is a real fisherman - all butchering done by him and I greatly appreciate this fact :). Likewise, this time I've gotten pieces of two great fillets, each one is about 12" in length; spine bones along with some flesh on it and huge catfish head.
Getting bored with all usual fried catfish, I have improvised two very successful dishes: one is catfish fillet pieces stir fried with onion until onion caramelized (it's not our subject today..maybe later) and another one is catfish in a jellied broth.
My inspiration here has come from a very unique Eastern European dish called 'kholodetz' which would probably gross-out any american soul. This dish resembles itself fair amount of cheap pieces of pork, beef, or chicken, such as feet, with a lot of connective tissues but still with some meat, which cooked in a rather small amount of water for a hours. Then, meat separated from a bone, along with reduced broth, with a some garlic and black pepper added, is placed in a fridge. Big amount of gelatine substance, contained in connective tissues and released in a broth, get whole dish set solid when placed in a fridge (not freezer!). Resulting product is jellied meat dish, served cold right from a fridge, and eaten with horseradish or mustard. This dish is in a core of Eastern European cuisine.
So, I decided to make 'kholodetz' with fish instead of meat!

Why I Liked It
Resulting dish did not disappoint me - it was delicious with no fishy tones as I was worry about. As I do not eat meat now, this jellied catfish  can become my 'kholodetz'!

Taste Description
It is really hard to describe the taste, it's actually very meaty in texture. Broth part is delightful - flavorful but with no fishy aftertaste. There is a little kick from pepper sprinkled on a top. It is somewhat similar to jellied meat loafs sold in deli sections of some groceries, but with a more delicate taste.

Actually any large fish with a lot of cartilage will work here. Fish head will give away a lot of gelatinous matter also.

Jellied Catfish

catfish head
catfish spine with some meat on it and big fins left intact
1 whole onion, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
3 bay leaves
black pepper

- Make sure that gills are removed and head is cleaned thoroughly (I use brush to do it). Clean up nicely fins also.

- In a large pot, place all fish parts, onion, bay leaves and carrot, cover it with water. Make sure that its just enough water to cover fish, not more. Brake/cut spine in pieces if needed.

- Bring pot to a boil, add salt to your taste and reduce heat. Simmer with a lid ajar for about 2 hours.

- Cool broth down. Take fish pieces out and separate meat from bones (yes, with your hands!). Do not forget about cheek meat in a head part. Discard skin, fat and bones. Keep pure meat. Try to get as much fat out of meat as possible - big catfish tend to be way too fatty.

- Discard whole cooked onion and bay leaves, keep a carrot. Slice carrot to a pretty flower shapes or simply sticks or circles.

- Try to discard as much fat from a surface of a broth as possible. Strain broth through a sieve covered with a cheese cloth or a paper towel.

- In a separate pan, combine cleared broth, fish meat and sliced carrot. Bring it to a boil and take off the heat right away. Distribute fish, carrot pieces and a broth evenly between individual bowls, glass containers or ramekins, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. When completely cooled down, cover with lids or plastic wrap and transfer to a fridge to firm up.

- Enjoy with piece of nice bread smothered with a hot mustard (or without one!). I hope you appreciate this completely new experience for your taste buds!

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