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
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
Here are three pictures that I think show the beauty of the hog snapper. This has to be my favorite snapper of all times. The flesh is brilliant white and very tender when cooked. This fish works well when pan seared, poached, backed, or broiled. It is also a fantastic treat when eaten raw. To give you an idea of the size of the fish, the two of them are laying on a full size restaurant sheet tray that measures 18 inches wide by 26 inches long. From what I understand the fish got its name from the fact that the face, in particular the mouth, looks like that of a pig. And as you can see they can open their mouth wide to consume the food. One thing to note is that these snapper are not the easiest to filet. You will need a very sharp knife to cut through the massive scales. I will tell you more as I find out. And of course I always welcome information from those who know about it.
— matt bolus
Filed under Butcher, Buthering, Charleston, Crudo, Fish, Flavor, Hog Snapper, Ideas, Matt Bolus, Restaurant, Snapper, Sushi, Uncategorized
This is just a quick look at the beautiful lamb that I get the pleasure of butchering on a weekly basis.
— matt bolus
I love a standing rib roast, and I do love the flavors of a prime rib though I am not the type to order it at a restaurant. I also love pork in all ways, racks, bellies, bacon, head cheese, loins, trotters, jowls, you name it I love it. So I decided to try creating my own version of a “Pork Prime Rib”. I like a good pork rack but it lacks the fat (i.e. protection and flavor) of a standing rib roast. Thinking about how to handle this situation it dawned on me that what the rack needed was all of the goodness of a braised pork belly. Now how am I to add a belly to a rack you ask? With transglutaminase (meat glue, also know as activa) of course. I went out and found a great four bone rack along with a beautiful piece of belly to go along with. I took them home and carefully glued them together using transglutaminase.
I have to stop here and truly ask those who read this and decide to work with a meat glue (transglutaminase) to do all the research they can. This chemical while fun is extremely dangerous and potentially lethal. Not because of side effects but because of what it does. Transglutaminase bond proteins together and they do not discriminate. Should you breathe them in, then you will end up with lungs that are glued shut. So again, please do all the research possible and take all of the necessary precautions when using this product.
Now back to the project at hand. My theory was that I needed a larger amount of fat, or fatty tissue between the primary heat source and the back part of the bones along with a lower overall temperature and longer time period in order to cook this thing properly. I carefully trussed the meat so that it would maintain a nice round shape and scored the fat cap of the belly in an attempt to render the fat quicker thus flavoring the meat before it was over cooked. I then seared the entire thing on all sides in a hot roasting pan. Placing the pork on a rack in the same roasting pan I then put it in a 250 degree Fahrenheit or 120 degreses Celsius or Gas Mark 1/2. I cooked the pork for just over eight hours, longer than I expected to have to cook it, and longer than I wanted to cook it. I did not monitor the internal temperature on purpose. The reason for this is the fact that I know how long pork belly can take to cook to a perfect point of tenderness. What I was hoping for was the rack of pork to work out because of the added layers of meat and fat the heat had to get through until it was completely cooked. I had thought about gluing the belly all the way around the rack and looking back I probably should have tried that. The two reasons I didn’t do it were one I did not like the presentation aspects of it, and two I did not think the meat below the bone line would cook the same as the meat glued to the rack meat.
After cooking the entire piece until the belly section was tender enough for me to want to eat it I removed it from the oven and allowed it to rest for 30 minutes. I then put it back into a 350 degree Fahrenheit or 180 degree Celsius or Gas Mark 4 oven to reheat for a mere 10 minutes. From the pictures you can see that the pork in my opinion was over cooked though it had an amazing flavor. I was going for a medium well done here thinking that the belly itself should be no less than well done leaving the rack meat at a medium well. Overall the belly was tender, needing no knife to cut it, and the pork rack itself had a wonderful flavor. You may also notice that the belly started to come off of the rack which in my opinion did add to the over cooking of the rack meat itself though not by much.
For the next attempt I am going to cook it using two different methods. First I will slow sear the belly part just as I would a duck breast, allowing the fat to render down slowly and for that wonderful Maillard reaction to occur. Once I have achieved a beautiful caramel crisp exterior I will the cook the pork as I would a standing rib roast at 200 degrees Fahrenheit or 93 degrees Celsius or Gas Mark 1/4 for one hour per pound to achieve a medium internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit or 63 Celsius. I will again allow the meat to rest for a period of 30 minutes and then return it to a 350 degree Fahrenheit or 180 degree Celsius or Gas Mark 4 oven for a period of 15 minutes to re heat at which point I will slice and serve.
— matt bolus
Filed under Charleston, Cooking, Flavor, Ideas, Matt Bolus, pork, Pork Belly, Pork Rack, Rack of Pork, Standing Rib Roast, Uncategorized
Soft Shell Crab
Breast of Squab
— matt bolus