Roly Poly Deliciousness

In food on 05/22/2009 at 7:56 pm

….And we’re back! Miss us? We’ve been busy snuggling the armpit of America, yes, I know it is near and dear to your hearts, but yet you dare not venture into the heart of its darkness…New Jersey!  Fear not dear readers, we will still be eating abroad on the fair isle of Manhattan.

The other half will be working there, and I will be scheming to become a medical examiner, the stepchild of the doctoring world (it’s all my Law n’ Order meets CSI fantasies come to fruition). Taxes and death, I think we’ve got our bases covered when it’s comes to the next Depression.

Our new neighborhood is yielding its secrets, slowly, but surely. One perk of living in the ‘burbs is you can ride your bike without fear of being smooshed by a taxi sandwich. So there we were with our bikes at Super Stop n’ Shop (no farmer’s markets close by) and on the way to buying some deli meat, I peeked into the seafood case and lo and behold, salmon fish heads were peeping back at me.

We’d tried white flesh fish heads before, in soups, but they were lacking in flavor and fat. Salmon is nice though, forgiving when you cook it, full of meaty bite and shrouded in a juicy layer of fat. Other types of non-white fish should be fine if you can’t find salmon; use mackerel if you really love that fishy fish-ness. Fish is usually expensive, but with the head, it’s super cheap. We only bought one head to sample, enough for the two of us, for a mere $1.60. Plus it’s really hard to bike home saddled with bags of groceries.

I cooked it up the homestyle way, just to accentuate its natural sugars and taste. I love butchering meats, so I whacked it in half, in the sagittal plane, with my hefty cleaver. It took a good bunch swats. Who knew fish bone was tougher than chicken or pork? But if you are squeamish about such things, have the butcher do the dirty work for you.

Then I sprinkled salt on both sides of the halves before I plopped them into a sizzling skillet with hot oil. This is a time when I am thankful for non-stick pans. Trying to cook fish and keep the skin intact without them is a disaster waiting to happen. I covered the skillet for about 5 minutes to caramelize the cut side (to seal the juices in), cranked some black pepper on top and flipped it with my new tongs, (which aren’t as good as my old tongs because the locking mechanism is a tab on top; it’s not very intuitive when hot things are flying around).

Cover the skillet for another minute or so. Take the fish off the heat gently, and swirl your just cooked rice in the oily goodness at the bottom of the skillet. Serve it up.

Eating fish head is the ultimate way to perfect your chopstickery skillz. I like most parts of the head. It’s full of contrasting textures and flavors depending on which part you’re munching. Don’t eat the gills I’m told, but someday I’ll take a little nibble, just to see. The skin is thick and has a gelantinous backing, especially around the forehead and mouth. The cheek is tender, though most of the stuff behind the skull is too. I much prefer working my way around a fish head than a whole crab, mostly because I don’t have to get my hands all gunky and the fish flesh tends to slurp right out.

Lastly, but not leastly, the eyeball is incredible if you get a fresh fish head. Look for the clear eyes, without any tinge of red. Scoop that eyeball out and pop it into your mouth whole. Some parts will goosh right out into your mouth (probably the vitreous humor), and there’s also a crunchy outer layer. The actual inner eyeball is usually hard, but I tend to gulp that down too. Trust me, this will be the best $2 meal you ever had in your life.

slurp this bad boy up

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