October 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm (crows, fishmongering, Uncategorized)

In recent years, the drain connected to the moat at the head of my cutting blocks has gone a bit finicky. My night crew has, too. So I’m expected not to leave them much of a mess, and not to allow things to collect in the moat. It isn’t easy for me, however. How am I to know what I have accomplished in a day if I can’t judge the size of the pile of bones and guts, fins and heads that have collected in piles around me and my knife? Bah.

fish bones

The fish that I can’t afford aren’t really things that I miss. Of course I could steal a bite of them whenever I like while I work, but for the most part I don’t. Those meaty and mild things are, I think, a little boring. I like the earthier, cheaper fish: trout, catfish, salmon, bluefish, mackerel. However, those fussier fish do serve their purpose. They make an excellent stock. I’ve never yet thrown out Chilean sea bass bones without feeling a little guilty for the buttery, rich stock they could have made. So last week I collected the Chilean bones, as well as halibut and bronzino bones, in one of the tubs in which our fish is shipped to us. I simmered them at home with salt, pepper, onion, carrot, celery and garden herbs until the cartilage weakened and the bones abandoned one another. It seems so wasteful that I ever buy vegetable stock, that I don’t do this weekly with the things that I could carry home for free, rather than hauling to the dumpster at the end of the night. And what sort of a crow would I be, what sort of great, great grandchild of the rag and bone men if I left bones so often uneaten?

Last week I used my stock to make a risotto with shrimp and scallops and crab meat. Today I’m making another with Chilean bones again, and with mild, juicy, wild Chinook salmon bones. By late afternoon it should be an Icelandic fish soup.

If you should happen to be in Philadelphia, I ought to mention that as we usually throw them out, if you call ahead to request that we save them our fish bones are free for the taking. A day’s notice makes it more likely that you’ll get what you want if you had something specific in mind, but a sufficient pile of bones of some sort can be saved within a couple of hours.

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