I caught this on a recent fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico. The first mate of the boat laughed at me when I told him I was going to filet it and take it home. “No one eats these fish, they are not even good bate fish”, he said. Well, if I take a fish out of the water then I am going to eat it. Some research has been done, and more needs to be finished. I know this fish is a part of the Jack family, a stunningly good family of fish when fresh and cooked right. So more to come about this elusive and seemingly useless fish!
— matt bolus
The John Dory, aka St. Pierre, is one of my all time favorite fish in the sea. I first encountered this magnificent fish while working for Dave Blagden (a fourth generation master fish monger) at his shop Blagden’s in London. While the shop is unfortunately now closed, the lessons and appreciation of this fish continue on.
The John Dory got it’s English name from the French, Jaune Dore or golden yellow. Hard to tell from this picture but the fish, especially in their younger age, actually have a golden yellow color in the water. Also hard to tell by looking at this picture is the amount of armor this fish carries with it. All around the perimeter of the body, just below the fins, are cleverly disguised spikes or horns if you will. And what holds these spikes to the body are what must be bullet proof oval plates that over lap each other. There is also one spike, along with razor sharp edges, just at the outer most point of each gill. This armament is rumored to be the reason for the name St. Pierre or Saint Peter’s fish. The legend goes that Saint Peter himself, the patron saint of fishermen, taught fishermen how to pick up the fish without cutting their hands by grabbing them just behind the gills to avoid all the spikes. Because Saint Peter grabbed the fish in this manner all John Dory have a distinctive spot in this area (I know you can’t see it in this picture, but trust me it is there).
John Dory are typically found in the Atlantic Ocean around Europe as well as in the Mediterranean Sea. Cleaning them is obviously not easy. Though they swim like a round fish they actually have a bone structure similar to that of a flat fish such as Halibut or Flounder. The first thing to accomplish when cleaning this fish is to cut under all of the plates that surround the fish. This can be done in two ways. The first, and my preference, is to cut underneath them by inserting your knife under the plates from the the body side, meaning from the outside of the fish. The second way is the cut all of the fins off, down to the plates, and then filet the fish from the outside. I find that cutting all the fins off, while possibly safer, takes far to much time. Not to mention you have to have scissors durable enough to complete the task. Either way, once this is accomplished remove the filets as you would over filet any flat fish, many filets can be cut into two pieces. The one bad thing I have to say about this fish is the yield. From my experience you are only going to obtain a 35% to 40% usable filet from the over all weight of the fish. None the less this fish is worth it. The texture of the John Dory is amazing, silky smooth yet durable. It is the sexy cousin of the Swordfish. Not quite a steak like texture but not flaky either. The flavor is delicate and sweet and will take on most flavors it is cooked with so I limit it to salt, butter, thyme, and lemon juice.
— matt bolus
Filed under Acid, Bottarga, Butcher, Buthering, butter, Cooking, Fish, Fish Eggs, Fish Roe, Flavor, Herbs, Ideas, John Dory, Lemon Juice, Matt Bolus, Thyme, Uncategorized
I have seen so many hogs butchered in my career that I can not even begin to count them. And the same thing always seems to happen with the ham; it is either cured into a country ham, ground for charcuterie, or ground for some sort of cooking. It has always bothered me that no one uses these beautifully large muscles for nothing else. I guess I can’t say never with any certainty in that no idea in the culinary world seems to be original. It is just my experience that other cuts of the pig seem to get more attention and ideas behind them. I have always wanted something more to do with the rear leg of the pig. I mean why not? We are always seeing the “Denver Leg” cut of venison or antelope which is the exact same part of the animal, just a different animal.
So I decided with this last hog we got I was going to change the norm for my butchering world. I took one of the hind legs and deconstructed it. What I was left with was six muscles that would yield good portioned steaks, lots of meat for grinding, a good amount of fat for rendering, and great skin for pork rinds. I removed all of the silver skin, fat, and random bits from each muscle so they where beautifully lean. I say lean but as you can see from the picture there is a great deal of marbling still present. I then used a jaccard meat tenderizer on each of the portioned steaks. I did this for two reasons. The first being the obvious, hind leg meat is notorious for being a tough cut (just one of the many reasons they are so commonly NOT used as steaks), and the second is that in all the “Denver Leg” venison steaks, even from the top producers I have used, I saw the marks of a jaccard.
Once prepped I heavily seasoned the steaks with salt and a twist or two of black pepper. I have to take a second here and explain why I say “heavily” when I refer to seasoning the steaks with salt. It has been my experience in sous vide cooking that if the protein, in particular pork, is not seasoned well then the end result is a bland taste. I can only equate this to the fact that many times pork is cooked with some time of liquid. Either stock, fat or some sort, or both are used in the sous vide bags with the pork. If this liquid is not seasoned, which neither a stock nor fat should be, then the liquid would of course absorb a degree of the salt thus reducing the amount the actual protein can absorb. I bagged the steaks with 4 ounces of pork stock (made from the bones of the same pig), a good slug of olive oil, and 1/2 cup of lard (rendered from the fat of the same pig). I also added 1 clove of garlic, 12 white peppercorns, and several sprigs of thyme. I cooked the steaks at 56.5 Celsius for 6 hours.
To finish the steaks I seared them in a mix of lard and canola oil to caramelize the outside and heat the steak through. I will admit the first one got away from me and cooked a little longer than I wanted and ended up a solid medium well when finished. I nailed the second at a perfect medium. To my amazement both were fantastic. Tender, juicy, and loaded with wonderful porky flavor. And while the medium steak was obviously my favorite I would not have turned away the over cooked medium well by any means. Finished with a nice bourbon smoked sea salt and a new dish was formed. Now what to serve them with?
This is the latest whole hog we received from our farmer Sam Yoder of Jolly Barnyard Farm in Kentucky. The pig itself is a mix of Landrace and Large White hogs. Both are very old European breeds brought to the United States in the 1800’s. It has to be one of the best crosses I have ever worked with. This picture is the cut I made between the fourth and fifth rib. What we yielded from it was 15 of the most beautiful chops (both bone in and out) that I have ever had. We seasoned them heavily with salt and black pepper and individually bagged them with pork stock(made from the bones of the same pig) and thyme. Then we sous vide them at 56.5 Celsius for 4 hours. Once done and chilled we pan-fried the chop in lard (rendered from the fat of the same pig) until crisp and hot. The result was the best pork chop I have ever had in my life. The meat was as tender as ever and cooked only to about medium. The flavor was truly pork in every way imaginable. I do have to say that for the bone in chops we left all the meat and fat on the bone, meaning we did not french cut it in any way.
Here is a fun look at what a Jimi Hatt and I do on our spare time!
Filed under Books, Brown Sugar, Butcher, Buthering, butter, Canning, Charleston, Cooking, Cream, Garden, Ideas, Matt Bolus, Pickling, pork, Potatoes, Radishes, Salt Curing, Travel, Uncategorized, Vegetables
Here is a beautiful example of a John Dory. Unfortunately this is a fish that is rarely seen in the States. Why, I am not certain. Living in Charleston where the seafood is more plentiful than Nashville we would see these from time to time but nothing on a regular basis. When I lived in London the John Dory was a regular at both the fish mongers as well as on menus. This fish has a wonderful flavor and is a great mix of soft white flesh that is not as flakey as snapper but is so buttery rich you can not pass it up. Even the skin when properly crisped in a pan is lovely.
One of the most interesting stories about the John Dory that has always caught my attention is a name that it is commonly known by, St. Pierre or San Pierre. One of the stories I have heard is that Saint Peter himself held the fish to remove a piece of money from its mouth which resulted in the dark spots on the side of the fish. The fish monger I worked for, Dave Blagden, explained it to me that Saint Peter left his thumb print on the side of the fish showing people how to handle the fish so they may learn to harvest the flesh for food. I tend to believe those who are master fishmongers, much less fourth generation master fishmongers. I also like the thought of Saint Peter teaching the masses how to handle such a defended fish.
This fish is one of the most difficult to learn how to filet. The entire perimeter of the fish is covered with small armor plates and thorns/spikes, however you want to describe them. I can easily remember the first time I tried to grab one of these. I remember it so vividly because of the cuts that it left on my fingers. From the eyes to the tail this fish is covered with spikes. So the story goes that Saint Peter picked the fish up from the center of the body, where there are no spikes, to show the people how to handle it. In order to filet the fish you have to cut under each and every plate, then run your finger or thumb back through the cut to release the meat. From there you can filet it as every other fish. The other wonderful part of this fish is the roe. Many of the John Dory you have the chance to filet will be filled with large sacks of eggs. These roe sacks can not be forgotten. I have featured them in other post and have had great success in turning them into a house version of Botarrga
Filed under Bottarga, Butcher, Buthering, Charleston, Cooking, Eggs, Fish, Fish Eggs, Fish Roe, Flavor, Ideas, John Dory, Matt Bolus, Roe, Uncategorized
I pulled these roe sacks out of some of the most beautiful John Dory I have ever seen. I first experience John Dory when working for Dave Blagden at Blagden Fishmonger on Paddington Street in London. Out of all the John Dory that I have cut since first working with them almost 10 years ago I have never seen roe sacks like this, so I had to do something with them.
I am debating between two different preperations. The first being a simple salt and water cure. Then the extraction of the eggs from the sack and again lightly salt curing them in an attempt to harvest John Dory “caviar”. The second method, which I have to admit I am leaning more towards, is curing the roe in alchohol and salt for 1 day. Then vacuum sealing the sacks in a mix of alcohol, salt, and aeromatics for ten days. The final product to be used like botarga.
— matt bolus
Filed under Butcher, Buthering, Charleston, Cooking, Eggs, Fish, Fish Eggs, Fish Roe, Flavor, Ideas, John Dory, Matt Bolus, Roe, Uncategorized