How to Fillet a Fish

How to Fillet a FishUnless you are an avid fisherman and catch it yourself, it is entirely possible that you could go your entire life without ever having to clean or fillet a whole fish.

The reality is that most fish are just too large for the average person to purchase whole and then cut into pieces. If you have ever seen a tuna at the aquarium you know what I mean. They can be HUGE. It is quite possible that you might find yourself with a whole salmon after a day of sport fishing or a trip up the Copper River. But, more often than not, if the recipe calls for a lot of salmon, you will purchase a whole side of salmon that your butcher has already filleted for you—not the entire fish.

There are some fish that are commonly sold whole like snapper and trout. Though you can obviously purchase these same fish already filleted, it can be cheaper and tastier to purchase them whole and cook them that way. But, those who prefer the elegance and ease of a fillet may benefit from learning to fillet the fish themselves while saving a little money. Once you get the hang of it, filleting your own fish will take no time at all.

How to Fillet a Fish
Having a very sharp flexible filleting knife is the key to filleting any fish quickly and without destroying the fish. Once you have that, follow these steps.  Read more…

Pork Shoulder

Pork Shoulder

There is probably no more versatile cut of meat than the pork shoulder. There almost isn’t anything you couldn’t do with it. You can grill it, slow cook it, smoke it, make it into sausage, cut it into steaks as a substitute for pork chops…the list goes on. And because of its higher fat content, the flavor is usually better than other cuts of pork and is less likely to dry out during cooking.

Pork shoulder is known and sold by many names including, Boston butt, pork butt, picnic shoulder, and pork blade shoulder. The confusing thing is that there is a bit of difference between a pork shoulder and a pork butt. Cuts that are labeled pork shoulder are generally from the triangle-shaped end of the shoulder. And, the butt is from the thicker, more marbled, top-end of the shoulder. For that reason, the pork shoulder is better for cooking and slicing while the butt is better for recipes where the meat is meant to fall apart such as pulled pork. Both are great cut up and used in stews and chilis.

Slow roasting or smoking a pork shoulder is probably the most popular way to cook it. You can never go wrong with pulled pork. And, you can sauté it in a pan for some really great tacos. The best part about a pork shoulder is that it makes it easy to feed a crowd…which is why it is a popular choice for your Memorial Day BBQs and other get-togethers.

Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork
There are several different versions of this recipe out there. This one is my favorite. Add your favorite coleslaw to the roll and you have an outstanding sandwich.  Read more…

T-Bone and Porterhouse Steak — What’s the difference?

T-Bone and Porterhouse SteakIf you have ever been to one of those fancy steak restaurants, you have probably seen a T-Bone steak or Porterhouse steak or both on the menu. They are both great tasting steaks that are full of flavor. I’m going to let you in on a little secret though. A T-bone and a Porterhouse are basically the same steak. The only difference between the two is the size of the tenderloin attached to the bone. Let me explain…

Both steaks are cut from the short loin located in the middle of the back of the animal, which gets very little exercise. This lack of exercise means the meat is much more tender than say a flank steak which comes from an area that gets more work. The short loin has a T-shaped bone that runs through it that separates the tenderloin from the larger top loin (New York Strip).

Steaks that are cut from the short loin that have a small amount of the tenderloin attached to them are called T-Bone steaks. The steaks that have a larger amount of the tenderloin attached are called Porterhouse. A Porterhouse steak can be pretty darn big and those big steaks are what you see in places like the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo.

No matter where you slice ‘em (ha ha ha), these steaks are great on the grill and with grilling season just starting, now is a good time to try one.

And, here is a recipe for Chimichurri — probably our favorite thing to serve with a grilled T-Bone or Porterhouse.

 

Lamb Shanks

Braised Lamb ShanksOut Like a Lamb
If spring could have an official meat, I think it would be lamb. It’s the first thing that pops into most people’s mind when thinking about spring cooking. What constitutes spring cooking though can be different from year to year as sometimes it’s eighty-degree grilling weather and other times, like this year, it’s raining buckets and in some places, you’re buried under twelve feet of snow.

When the weather is cold, braising is the way to go. And, there are few things better than melt-in-your-mouth lamb shanks. Bonus, they won’t drain your wallet.

Lamb shanks come from the lower section of the legs. The meat of the shank can be very tough—since this is an area of the animal that gets a lot of work. For this reason, braising and other slow cooking methods are essential for a fall of the bone result.

The shanks also contain quite a bit of collagen—a great benefit because the collagen acts as a natural thickener for the braising liquid which can be turned into a succulent sauce.

The cooking time of lamb shanks means that these are not a good choice for weeknight dinners. However, with a little mid-week planning and all the possible lamb shank recipes available online or in print, you have time to plan a really fantastic Sunday meal. And, any leftovers are perfect for lunch the next day.

Here is one of our favorite recipes for braised lamb shanks.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Balsamic, Herbs, and Spices
Adapted from Food 52 Read more…

Oysters

OystersThe World Is Your Oyster
Oysters — most people have very strong feelings one way or the other. You either love them or you hate them. Haters aside, the oyster has long been considered an aphrodisiac and because of that, they tend to show up on Valentine’s Day menus everywhere.

Oysters are fairly easy to prepare, once you figure out how to shuck them and keep your fingers. Here is a good guide for shucking. It’s everything that happens before the shucking that can be eye-opening.

For example, did you know that oysters have their own terroir? In the same way that a specific wine growing region will affect the flavor of wine, the regions where they grow will affect the flavor. This is why, when you see oysters on the menu, they will almost always have the harvest area included in the description.

There are five different types grown in the United States. The Eastern Oyster is the native oyster along the Eastern and Gulf coasts. They can found on menus under names like Chincoteague, Malpeque, Apalachicola, or Wellfleet. They tend to have a milder more salty flavor.

Pacific Oyster are, not surprisingly, the most prolific oyster species on the West Coast. They can be found under such possible names as Totten Inlet, Pickering Passage and Netarts Bay. They tend to have a more complex flavor profile that includes a more savory mineral flavor.

Kumamoto Oyster are another species found on the West Coast. They are smaller than the Pacific oyster and are unique in that they go by the species name rather than where they were harvested, though sometimes you may see the bay where they were harvested listed. The have a mild not too briny flavor which makes them a great “starter” oyster.

The European Flat Oyster is a species that was brought to the Atlantic from Northern France. Sometimes sold under the name Belon, they can be found on both the East and West coast and tend to have a slimmer shape than other oysters as well as a bold mineral flavor. It is a favorite among aficionados.

The Olympia Oyster is the only native oyster in the West. Similar to the European Flat Oyster, the Olympia is a tiny oyster that delivers big flavor.

Oysters are sold either in the shell or pre-shucked. If you are planning to eat the oysters raw you will want to get oysters that are still in the shell. If you are cooking the oysters, it can be worth it to get them shucked ahead of time. Keep oysters refrigerated, covered with a damp cloth. Because they need good air circulation, oysters should not be stored in a covered bowl, plastic bag, or airtight container. Even a bucket of sea water is a bad idea.

As with all seafood, oysters deteriorate every day they are out of the water and should be consumed as fresh as possible, ideally, on the same day of purchase. If you are planning to eat the oysters raw, having the freshest oysters you can is very important.

There is very little that you can’t do with oysters. They can be steamed or fried. They can also be baked (Oysters Rockefeller). Smoked oysters are fantastic—and some of the best come in cans from Europe. Oysters are great in stews or soups. They can even be pickled. The easiest way and maybe one of the most popular ways to have oysters is to throw them on the grill which also helps with getting them open.

There is plenty of debate, though, on how you should eat a fresh oyster. For some the oyster liquid inside is all you need. For others a nice mignonette sauce is the way to go or even some melted butter. For grilled oysters a little BBQ sauce can be a great accompaniment.