Sunday, July 27, 2014

Get More For Your Money: Roast Those Carcasses!

Summer means that cooking moves outdoors, with electricity replaced by fire. Around here we're putting not just steaks and chickens on the grill but fish, usually whole salmon or tuna loins.

Whole albacore on sale.

Albacore season has just started and you'll see whole fish going on sale at supermarkets around town. Caught off our coastline, mostly by small family-owned boats using a pole-and-line method, the entire West Coast fishery has been certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). These smaller fish (12-25 lbs.) are low in mercury and other toxins simply because they haven't spent as much time in the ocean environment as the larger, 40 to 60-lb. fish caught in the deep oceans, the ones that appear in cans on store shelves. (Read my story on Oregon albacore for more information.)

Roast that carcass, don't toss it.

So enjoy roasting those triangular loins, whether whole or sliced into steaks and seared on the outside, leaving the centers barely warm and still pink. But please, oh please, when you buy that whole fish, ask them to bag up the carcass, too, or you'll be throwing away two pounds or so of good meat, not to mention the stock you can make from the bones, fins and head (if you buy it with the head on).

Pick meat off the roasted carcass, then make stock with the bones.

And don't believe those charts meant for chefs that say the yield from a whole albacore, gutted and without the head, is 50% of the weight. From the 17-pound fish (head off) that I bought yesterday, my yield was more than 80% after removing the loins, roasting the carcass (350° for 30 min.), picking off the meat (nearly 2 lbs.!) and then making stock from the bones (2 1/2 qts.). The total weight of bones, fins and detritus that went into the compost bin was only two or three pounds. (Kind of tells you about the food waste that happens in restaurants, though, doesn't it?)

The flaked albacore from the bones will be going into salads, fish cakes, sandwiches and soups or chowders, and the stock is fabulous for paella, risottos, chowders, bouillabaisse, etc. So get the most for your money, roast those carcasses, and reap the delicious rewards!

Here's the blog post from my friend Hank Shaw that got me started roasting carcasses.

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