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'!
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.
catfish spine with some meat on it and big fins left intact
1 whole onion, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
3 bay leaves
- 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!