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Friday, May 22, 2009


The most essential point in choosing fish is their freshness, and this is determined as follows: if the gills are red, the eyes prominent and full, and the whole fish stiff, they are good; but if the eyes are sunken, the gills pale, and the fish flabby, they are stale and unwholesome, and, though often eaten in this condition, lack all the fine flavor of a freshly-caught fish.

The fish being chosen, the greatest care is necessary in cleaning. If this is properly done, one washing will be sufficient: the custom of allowing fresh fish to lie in water after cleaning, destroys much of their flavor.

Fresh-water fish, especially the cat-fish, have often a muddy taste and smell. To get rid of this, soak in water strongly salted; say, a cupful of salt to a gallon of water, letting it heat gradually in this, and boiling it for one minute; then drying it thoroughly before cooking.

All fish for boiling should be put into cold water, with the exception of salmon, which loses its color unless put into boiling water. A tablespoonful each of salt and vinegar to every two quarts of water improves the flavor of all boiled fish, and also makes the flesh firmer. Allow ten minutes to the pound after the fish begins to boil, and test with a knitting-needle or sharp skewer. If it runs in easily, the fish can be taken off. If a fish-kettle with strainer is used, the fish can be lifted out without danger of breaking. If not, it should be thoroughly dredged with flour, and served in a cloth kept for the purpose. In all cases drain it perfectly, and send to table on a folded napkin laid upon the platter.

In frying, fish should, like all fried articles, be immersed in the hot lard or drippings. Small fish can be fried whole; larger ones boned, and cut in small pieces. If they are egged and crumbed, the egg will form a covering, hardening at once, and absolutely impervious to fat.

Pan-fish, as they are called,—flounders and small fish generally,—can also be fried by rolling in Indian meal or flour, and browning in the fat of salt pork.

Baking and broiling preserve the flavor most thoroughly.

Cold boiled fish can always be used, either by spicing as in the rule to be given, or by warming again in a little butter and water. Cold fried or broiled fish, can be put in a pan, and set in the oven till hot, this requiring not over ten minutes; a longer time giving a strong, oily taste, which spoils it. Plain boiled or mashed potatoes are always served with fish where used as a dinner-course. If fish is boiled whole, do not cut off either tail or head. The tail can be skewered in the mouth if liked; or a large fish may be boiled in the shape of the letter S by threading a trussing-needle, fastening a string around the head, then passing the needle through the middle of the body, drawing the string tight and fastening it around the tail.


Bass, fresh shad, blue-fish, pickerel, &c., can be cooked in this way:—

See that the fish has been properly cleaned. Wash in salted water, and wipe dry. For stuffing for a fish weighing from four to six pounds, take four large crackers, or four ounces of bread-crumbs; quarter of a pound of salt pork; one teaspoonful of salt, and half a teaspoonful of pepper; a tablespoonful of chopped parsley, or a teaspoonful of thyme. Chop half the pork fine, and mix with the crumbs and seasoning, using half a cup of hot water to mix them, or, if preferred, a beaten egg. Put this dressing into the body of the fish, which is then to be fastened together with a skewer. Cut the remainder of the pork in narrow strips, and lay it in gashes cut across the back of the fish about two inches apart. Dredge thickly with flour, using about two tablespoonfuls. Put a tin baking-sheet in the bottom of a pan, as without it the fish can not be easily taken up. Lay the fish on this; pour a cup of boiling water into the pan, and bake in a hot oven for one hour, basting it very often that the skin may not crack; and, at the end of half an hour, dredging again with flour, repeating this every ten minutes till the fish is done. If the water dries away, add enough to preserve the original quantity. When the fish is done, slide it carefully from the tin sheet on to a hot platter. Set the baking-pan on top of the stove. Mix a teaspoonful of flour with quarter of a cup of cold water, and stir into the boiling gravy. A tablespoonful of walnut or mushroom catchup, or of Worcestershire sauce, may be added if liked. Serve very hot.

Before sending a baked fish to table, take out the skewer. When done, it should have a handsome brown crust. If pork is disliked, it may be omitted altogether, and a tablespoonful of butter substituted in the stuffing. Basting should be done as often as once in ten minutes, else the skin will blister and crack. Where the fish is large, it will be better to sew the body together after stuffing, rather than to use a skewer. The string can be cut and removed before serving.

If any is left, it can be warmed in the remains of the gravy, or, if this has been used, make a gravy of one cup of hot water, thickened with one teaspoonful of flour or corn-starch stirred smooth first in a little cold water. Add a tablespoonful of butter and any catchup or sauce desired. Take all bones from the fish; break it up in small pieces, and stew not over five minutes in the gravy. Or it can be mixed with an equal amount of mashed potato or bread-crumbs, a cup of milk and an egg added, with a teaspoonful of salt and a saltspoonful of pepper, and baked until brown—about fifteen minutes—in a hot oven.


General directions have already been given. All fish must boil very gently, or the outside will break before the inside is done. In all cases salt and a little vinegar, a teaspoonful each, are allowed to each quart of water. Where the fish has very little flavor, Dubois' receipt for boiling will be found exceedingly nice, and much less trouble than the name applied by professional cooks to this method—au court bouillon—would indicate. It is as follows:—

Mince a carrot, an onion, and one stalk of celery, and fry them in a little butter. Add two or three sprigs of parsley, two tablespoonfuls of salt, six pepper-corns, and three cloves. Pour on two quarts of boiling water and one pint of vinegar, and boil for fifteen minutes. Skim as it boils, and use, when cold, for boiling the fish. Wine can be used instead of vinegar; and, by straining carefully and keeping in a cold place, the same mixture can be used several times.


If the fish is large, it should be split, in order to insure its being cooked through; though notches may be cut at equal distances, so that the heat can penetrate. Small fish may be broiled whole. The gridiron should be well greased with dripping or olive oil. If a double-wire gridiron is used, there will be no trouble in turning either large or small fish. If a single-wire or old-fashioned iron one, the best way is to first loosen with a knife any part that sticks; then, holding a platter over the fish with one hand, turn the gridiron with the other, and the fish can then be returned to it without breaking.

Small fish require a hot, clear fire; large ones, a more moderate one, that the outside may not be burned before the inside is done. Cook always with the skin-side down at first, and broil to a golden brown,—this requiring, for small fish, ten minutes; for large ones, from ten to twenty, according to size. When done, pepper and salt lightly; and to a two-pound fish allow a tablespoonful of butter spread over it. Set the fish in the oven a moment, that the butter may soak in, and then serve. A teaspoonful of chopped parsley, and half a lemon squeezed over shad or any fresh fish, is a very nice addition. Where butter, lemon, and parsley are blended beforehand, it makes the sauce known as maître d'hôtel sauce, which is especially good for broiled shad.

In broiling steaks or cutlets of large fish,—say, salmon, halibut, fresh cod, &c.,—the same general directions apply. Where very delicate broiling is desired, the pieces of fish can be wrapped in buttered paper before laying on the gridiron; this applying particularly to salmon.


Small fish—such as trout, perch, smelts, &c.—may simply be rolled in Indian meal or flour, and fried either in the fat of salt pork, or in boiling lard or drippings. A nicer method, however, with fish, whether small or in slices, is to dip them first in flour or fine crumbs, then in beaten egg,—one egg, with two tablespoonfuls of cold water and half a teaspoonful of salt, being enough for two dozen smelts; then rolling again in crumbs or meal, and dropping into hot lard. The egg hardens instantly, and not a drop of fat can penetrate the inside. Fry to a golden brown. Take out with a skimmer; lay in the oven on a double brown paper for a moment, and then serve.

Filets of fish are merely flounders, or any flat fish with few bones, boned, skinned, and cut in small pieces; then egged and fried.

To bone a fish of this sort, use a very sharp knife. The fish should have been scaled, but not cleaned or cut open. Make a cut down the back from head to tail. Now, holding the knife pressed close to the bone, cut carefully till the fish is free on one side; then turn, and cut away the other. To skin, take half the fish at a time firmly in one hand; hold the blade of the knife flat as in boning, and run it slowly between skin and flesh. Cut the fish in small diamond-shaped pieces; egg, crumb, and put into shape with the knife; and then fry. The operation is less troublesome than it sounds, and the result most satisfactory.

The bones and trimmings remaining can either be stewed in a pint of water till done, adding half a teaspoonful of salt, a saltspoonful of pepper, and a tablespoonful of catchup; straining the gravy off, and thickening with one heaping teaspoonful of flour dissolved in a little cold water: or they can be broiled. For broiled bones, mix one saltspoonful of mustard, as much cayenne as could be taken up on the point of a penknife, a saltspoonful of salt, and a tablespoonful of vinegar. A tablespoonful of olive-oil may be added, if liked. Lay the bone in this, turning it till all is absorbed; broil over a quick fire; and serve very hot.

Fish may also be fried in batter (p. 182), or these pieces, or filets, may be laid on a buttered dish; a simple drawn butter or cream sauce (p. 182) poured over them; the whole covered with rolled bread or cracker-crumbs, dotted with bits of butter, and baked half an hour. A cup of canned mushrooms is often added.


Any fresh-water fish is good, cooked in this way; cat-fish which have been soaked in salted water, to take away the muddy taste, being especially nice. Cut the fish in small pieces. Boil two sliced onions in a cup of water. Pour off this water; add another cup, and two tablespoonfuls of wine, a saltspoonful of pepper, and salt to taste (about half a teaspoonful). Put in the fish, and cook for twenty minutes. Thicken the gravy with a heaping teaspoonful of flour, rubbed to a cream with a teaspoonful of butter. If wine is not used, add a sprig of chopped parsley and the juice of half a lemon.

These methods will be found sufficient for all fresh fish, no other special rules being necessary. Experience and individual taste will guide their application. If the fish is oily, as in the case of mackerel or herring, broiling will always be better than frying. If fried, let it be with very little fat, as their own oil will furnish part.


The large, white cod, which cuts into firm, solid slices, should be used. If properly prepared, there is no need of the strong smell, which makes it so offensive to many, and which comes only in boiling. The fish is now to be had boned, and put up in small boxes, and this is by far the most desirable form. In either case, lay in tepid water skin-side up, and soak all night. If the skin is down, the salt, instead of soaking out, settles against it, and is retained. Change the water in the morning, and soak two or three hours longer; then, after scraping and cleaning thoroughly, put in a kettle with tepid water enough to well cover it, and set it where it will heat to the scalding-point, but not boil. Keep it at this point, but never let it boil a moment. Let it cook in this way an hour: two will do no harm. Remove every particle of bone and dark skin before serving, sending it to table in delicate pieces, none of which need be rejected. With egg sauce (p. 169), mashed or mealy boiled potatoes, and sugar-beets, this makes the New-England "fish dinner" a thing of terror when poorly prepared, but both savory and delicate where the above rule is closely followed.

Fish-balls, and all the various modes of using salted cod, require this preparation beforehand.


Flake two pounds of cold boiled salt cod very fine. Boil one pint of milk. Mix butter the size of a small egg with two tablespoonfuls of flour, and stir into it. Add a few sprigs of parsley or half an onion minced very fine, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and half a teaspoonful of salt. Butter a quart pudding-dish. Put in alternate layers of dressing and fish till nearly full. Cover the top with sifted bread or cracker crumbs, dot with bits of butter, and brown in a quick oven about twenty minutes. The fish may be mixed with an equal part of mashed potato, and baked; and not only codfish, but any boiled fresh fish, can be used, in which case double the measure of salt given will be required.


Any remains of cold fresh fish may be used. Take out all bones or bits of skin. Lay in a deep dish, and barely cover with hot vinegar in which a few cloves and allspice have been boiled. It is ready for use as soon as cold.


Fresh herring or mackerel or shad may be used. Skin the fish, and cut in small pieces, packing them in a small stone jar. Just cover with vinegar. For six pounds of fish allow one tablespoonful of salt, and a dozen each of whole allspice, cloves, and pepper-corns. Tie a thick paper over the top of the cover, and bake five hours. The vinegar dissolves the bones perfectly, and the fish is an excellent relish at supper.


Three pounds of any sort of fresh fish may be taken; but fresh cod is always best. Six large potatoes and two onions, with half a pound of salt pork.

Cut the pork into dice, and fry to a light brown. Add the onions, and brown them also. Pour the remaining fat into a large saucepan, or butter it, as preferred. Put in a layer of potatoes, a little onion and pork, and a layer of the fish cut in small pieces, salting and peppering each layer. A tablespoonful of salt and one teaspoonful of pepper will be a mild seasoning. A pinch of cayenne may be added, if liked. Barely cover with boiling water, and boil for half an hour. In the meantime boil a pint of milk, and, when at boiling-point, break into it three ship biscuit or half a dozen large crackers; add a heaping tablespoonful of butter. Put the chowder in a platter, and pile the softened crackers on top, pouring the milk over all. Or the milk may be poured directly into the chowder; the crackers laid in, and softened in the steam; and the whole served in a tureen. Three or four tomatoes are sometimes added. In clam chowder the same rule would be followed, substituting one hundred clams for the fish, and using a small can of tomatoes if fresh ones were not in season.


The rule already given for oyster soup is an excellent one, omitting the thickening. A simpler one is to strain the juice from a quart of oysters, and add an equal amount of water. Bring it to boiling-point; skim carefully; season with salt to taste, this depending on the saltness of the oysters, half a teaspoonful being probably enough. Add a saltspoonful of pepper, a tablespoonful of butter, and a cup of milk. The milk may be omitted, if preferred. Add the oysters. Boil till the edges curl, and no longer. Serve at once, as they toughen by standing.


Choose large oysters, and drain thoroughly in a colander. Dry in a towel. Dip first in sifted cracker-crumbs; then in egg, one egg beaten with a large spoonful of cold water, half a teaspoonful of salt, and a saltspoonful of pepper, being enough for two dozen oysters. Roll again in crumbs, and drop into boiling lard. If a wire frying-basket is used, lay them in this. Fry to a light brown. Lay them on brown paper a moment to drain, and serve at once on a hot platter. As they require hardly more than a minute to cook, it is better to wait till all are at the table before beginning to fry. Oysters are very good, merely fried in a little hot butter; but the first method preserves their flavor best.


One quart of oysters; one large breakfast cup of cracker or bread crumbs, the crackers being nicer if freshly toasted and rolled hot; two large spoonfuls of butter; one teaspoonful of salt; half a teaspoonful of pepper; one saltspoonful of mace. Mix the salt, pepper, and mace together. Butter a pudding-dish; heat the juice with the seasoning and butter, adding a teacup of milk or cream if it can be had, though water will answer. Put alternate layers of crumbs and oysters, filling the dish in this way. Pour the juice over, and bake in a quick oven twenty minutes. If not well browned, heat a shovel red-hot, and brown the top with that; longer baking toughening the oysters.


One quart of oysters put on to boil in their own liquor. Turn them while boiling into a colander to drain. Melt a piece of butter the size of an egg in the saucepan, add a tablespoonful of sifted flour, and stir one minute. Pour in the oyster liquor slowly, which must be not less than a large cupful. Beat the yolks of two eggs thoroughly with a saltspoonful of salt, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and one of mace. Add to the boiling liquor, but do not let it boil. Put in the oysters, and either use them to fill a pie, the form for which is already baked, for patties for dinner, or serve them on thin slices of buttered toast for breakfast or tea.


To a gallon of large, fine oysters, allow one pint of cider or white-wine vinegar; one tablespoonful of salt; one grated nutmeg; eight blades of mace; three dozen cloves, and as many whole allspice; and a saltspoon even full of cayenne pepper. Strain the oyster juice, and bring to the boiling-point in a porcelain-lined kettle. Skim carefully as it boils up. Add the vinegar, and skim also, throwing in the spices and salt when it has boiled a moment. Boil all together for five minutes, and then pour over the oysters, adding a lemon cut in very thin slices. They are ready for the table next day, but will keep a fortnight or more in a cold place. If a sharp pickle is desired, use a quart instead of a pint of vinegar.

SMOTHERED OYSTERS (Maryland fashion).

Drain all the juice from a quart of oysters. Melt in a frying-pan a piece of butter the size of an egg, with as much cayenne pepper as can be taken up on the point of a penknife, and a saltspoonful of salt. Put in the oysters, and cover closely. They are done as soon as the edges ruffle. Serve on thin slices of buttered toast as a breakfast or supper dish. A glass of sherry is often added.


Chop twenty-five clams or oysters fine, and mix them with a batter made as follows: One pint of flour, in which has been sifted one heaping teaspoonful of baking-powder and half a teaspoonful of salt; one large cup of milk, and two eggs well beaten. Stir eggs and milk together; add the flour slowly; and, last, the clams or oysters. Drop by spoonfuls into boiling lard. Fry to a golden brown, and serve at once; or they may be fried like pancakes in a little hot fat. Whole clams or oysters may be used instead of chopped ones, and fried singly.


Be sure that the lobster is alive, as, if dead, it will not be fit to use. Have water boiling in a large kettle, and, holding the lobster or crab by the back, drop it in head foremost; the reason for this being, that the animal dies instantly when put in in this way. An hour is required for a medium-sized lobster, the shell turning red when done. When cold, the meat can be used either plain or in salad, or cooked in various ways. A can-opener will be found very convenient in opening a lobster.


Cut the meat into small bits, and add the green fat, and the coral which is found only in the hen-lobster. Melt in a saucepan one tablespoonful of butter and a heaping tablespoonful of flour. Stir smoothly together, adding slowly one large cup of either stock or milk, a saltspoonful of mace, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and half a teaspoonful of salt. Put in the lobster, and cook for ten minutes. For curry, simply add one teaspoonful of curry-powder. This stewed lobster may also be put in the shell of the back, which has been cleaned and washed, bread or cracker crumbs sprinkled over it, and browned in the oven; or it may be treated as a scallop, buttering a dish, and putting in alternate layers of crumbs and lobster, ending with crumbs. Crabs, though more troublesome to extract from the shell, are almost equally good, treated in any of the ways given.

Taken from:

Adapted to Domestic Use or Study in Classes

Copyright 1903
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