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Fish heads to make stock


phaelon56
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I combed the archives of the eGCI course on stock making and saw a post mentioning that fish stock would be discussed but was unable to find the information there or on a forum search. Very simple question: shuld I use the head(s) when making fish stock?

I baked fileted and baked some red snapper this weekend and threw the carcass, including the head, straight into the freezer in a ziploc. I understand the general principles of making a fish stock but find that of the five or six recipes I've located on the Web, only one mentions using the head. Your opinions?

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I would use the head anytime, if fresh. Heads are tasty.

What are you afraid of?

Wrt. clear stock: just clearing it with egg-white should sufficiently do the job.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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I use heads all the time, unless I'm doing a salmon stock (I rarely do - but if I do, I only use salmon bones, no skin at all). I split the head lengthwise. As with my white chicken stock, I soak in ice water for 2 hours to float and congeal fat, blood, other impurities, then make sure as much blood/guts is removed from the head as possible before proceeding. I find that clarity is usually not an issue, if it is, I just slow the simmer way down and put the pan to one side, as with any stock. Or, build a raft/clarifier per Boris_A's suggestion.

Too much good stuff in dat dere head to let it go to waste, IMHO.

Paul

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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I use heads all the time, unless I'm doing a salmon stock (I rarely do - but if I do, I only use salmon bones, no skin at all). I split the head lengthwise. As with my white chicken stock, I soak in ice water for 2 hours to float and congeal fat, blood, other impurities, then make sure as much blood/guts is removed from the head as possible before proceeding. I find that clarity is usually not an issue, if it is, I just slow the simmer way down and put the pan to one side, as with any stock. Or, build a raft/clarifier per Boris_A's suggestion.

Too much good stuff in dat dere head to let it go to waste, IMHO.

Paul

Make sure you remove the gills,they can impart a bitter taste.

I periodically get a quantity of salmon heads just so I can get at the cheeks and

the connective tissue behind the eyes.....I do a pasta dish just for this purpose.

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I would use the head anytime, if fresh. Heads are tasty.

What are you afraid of?

Uhhhh.... I'm afraid of running out of espresso beans early on a Saturday morning. I was curious because so few of the recipes I saw called for fish heads. The suggestion to remove the gills and eyes is the sort of information I was looking for - thanks to all who replied.

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I use heads all the time, unless I'm doing a salmon stock (I rarely do - but if I do, I only use salmon bones, no skin at all). I split the head lengthwise.  As with my white chicken stock, I soak in ice water for 2 hours to float and congeal fat, blood, other impurities, then make sure as much blood/guts is removed from the head as possible before proceeding.  I find that clarity is usually not an issue, if it is, I just slow the simmer way down and put the pan to one side, as with any stock.  Or, build a raft/clarifier per Boris_A's suggestion.

Too much good stuff in dat dere head to let it go to waste, IMHO.

Paul

Paul, do you always split the heads lengthwise (with every kind of fish you use) or only with salmon?

Thank you for your kind advice.

edited for spelling

Edited by bleudauvergne (log)
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Edited to add: Whoops, misreading everything! Mon amie Bleu - I split all the fish heads I use, just to get more surface area exposed, but I don't use salmon. With salmon, I find that outside of the bones, everything so strongly flavored and oily in texture, I find it is disagreeable to use anything but the carcass bones.

I'll share that I hate waste and am exceedingly tight about it - laughing to myself last night, making a lobster-Jerez beurre blanc (of sorts, adapted from Daniel Boulud), and some aromatics, as usual, crept up on the side of the sauce pan. I laughed because I noted how much time I always spend flicking each and every scrap of vegetable or herb back into the stock, no matter how tiny, for fear that whatever stock or sauce I make will lose the flavor of the wee tidbit. Truly demented, because I probably lose more in transfer than whatever is lost on the side of the pot. C'est la vie.

Anyway, I have a good cleaver (F. Dick, 7.5#, I think it is), and pretty much bust up everything I make a stock out of. Doing that also allows me to get into the gooey/bloody areas, which contents I try to get rid of before making my stocks. C'est tous.

Side: Great pics again, of your reblochon/magret!

Paul

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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Thanks for the all of the tips of removing eyes/gills. I had sworn off fish stock because of the bitter taste, but I didn't remove anything. Hate to think of those fish heads swimming in my stock pot again :blink: but I'm willing to try fish stock with the bitter-tasting things removed.

Now, I'm using doctored-up bottled clam juice, and that gets expensive.

Rhonda

P.S. I haven't really cleaned animals before. Not meaning to be gross, but to remove the eyes, just pop them out? And the gills, just cut the outside part and any filter-type things on the inside of the gill until you get to the flesh??

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I don't worry about the eyes; maybe I should, and will, to see.

To clean the gills, just hook your index finger around the bunch and yank them free. Great way to clean the fish, too, if the guts are still present. You may have to grab a remnant or two, but I rarely need to, as the gills tend to come away intact.

Paul

Oh, sorry, Nola, I may have misread you - I don't worry about the bony plates covering the gills (read somewhere - biologists - operculum?). I just make sure and remove all fins, and use my index fingers to pull the gills proper - the bloody three-or so u-shaped things themselves (rakers and filaments).

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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Now, I'm using doctored-up bottled clam juice, and that gets expensive.

If you really don't want to go to the trouble.... check with your local upscale fishmarket. The best one in my area has a few deli type items that they make from scratch and sell for take-out (various salads and chilled seafood related items) and also a chowder or two. I asked them if they carried fish stock,, assuming they'd point me to some sort of bottled concotion but nooooo.... they make the good stuff from their scraps and boines, then freeze it and pack for retail sale. It's frozen tbu the turnover in there is brisk - I doubt that any of it has been frozen for more than a few weeks. Great time saver, it was highly concentrated and at $1.15 for a oint I can't go wrong on price.

That said.... I'll still be making my own as I love the smell, the process and gain a sense of satisfaction from reducing waste (now that I have a house again I anticipate having my first compost pile soon).

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Paul, thanks. We have a market here where I can get heads and trimmings, but they look at me funny when I ask :laugh: I'm going to try it using your suggestion. I'll go ahead and remove the eyes, too, just in case, because last time I dumped down the contents of the entire stock pot down the disposal!

Phaelon, I want to go to the trouble if it tastes good. I already make all of my other stocks, and I use a shrimp stock in a lot of seafood dishes. Fish stock is the only one I'm lacking.

Thanks!

Rhonda

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Thanks for the all of the tips of removing eyes/gills. I had sworn off fish stock because of the bitter taste, but I didn't remove anything.

Some bitterness comes from the bones themselves. That's why fish stock (fumet) should be made at a very gentle, poaching simmer for about 20 mins only, 40 mins absolute max.

Cut around the eyes and lever them out, cutting the joining nerve. Not pleasant.

Whenever we had a sheep's head we would leave the eyes in, because it had to see us through the week.

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To clean the gills, just hook your index finger around the bunch and yank them free. Great way to clean the fish, too, if the guts are still present. You may have to grab a remnant or two, but I rarely need to, as the gills tend to come away intact.

Careful though, the gills can actually be sharp.

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In my experience most of the bitterness in a fish stock will come either from excessive time on the simmer or excessive temperature in the process. Either will liberate calcium from the bones which, in fish or poultry carcasses, fail to fix the calcium to the bones as definitely as beef or veal.

Whilst beef and veal bones will stand up to (and, in fact, demand) a long simmer, I find the best approach with fish is a short (say 30 - 40 min), slight simmer followed by a 20 min rest then a short return to a simmer followed by an immediate strain through a chinoise. Chicken can take slightly longer on the simmer and duck longer still. After that the calcium leaches out which adds a nasty bitter taste to the stock.

I know it's obvious, but under no circumstances allow the fish or poultry stock to boil - whereas a boil in a beef stock will often lead at worst to cloudy liquor, which you can probably clarify out, in fish or poultry a temperature above a glossy simmer is guaranteed to ruin it by leaching out the calcium and changing the taste, making it bitter - about which you can do nothing.

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Personally I would simmer for NO more than 20 minutes.

I agree with removing the gills, eyes, skin and as much blood as possible. Wash the carcass/head/bones under cold water first to clean it out.

What else are you putting in the stock?

Dan

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I had a friend come visit who insisted that the lobster bodies I make into stock for chowder MUST be roasted first. I disagreed, thinking (but not knowing) this was for beef and veal bones only. We went ahead with his way. It made a killer lobster bisque, but the effect on my chowder was unattractive.

What do you think/know about this?

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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I don't roast them, as in dry-roast for 1 1/2 or so hours, but I do sweat them with aromatics, as with my shrimp/langoustine/crab shells, so that they develop a nice "roast" red character and flavor.

Paul

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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I had a friend come visit who insisted that the lobster bodies I make into stock for chowder MUST be roasted first. I disagreed, thinking (but not knowing) this was for beef and veal bones only. We went ahead with his way. It made a killer lobster bisque, but the effect on my chowder was unattractive.

What do you think/know about this?

Anytime someone does something out of the ordinary and gets good results

through experience and works for them,doesn"t mean that it will work for everyone. Experiment with different techniques.The general consensus on

cooking anything will give expected results only,subpar for some.Everytime I hear "this is the only way something is to be prepared"....it's

generally from a cookbook or a googled answer. :wink:

10 cooks 10 different results,that will never change,thank God.

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What else are you putting in the stock?

Dan

I was thinking maybe mirepoix, garlic, a bay leaf, parsley, a bit of fennel and some peppercorns - plus some sea salt. Does this sound okay?

I don't think I have a chinoise anymore or sure don't know what happened to it. Would a fine mesh strainer be okay?

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but I'm willing to try fish stock with the bitter-tasting things removed.

Fish stock, bring to a simmer, but stop after twenty minutes, or bitterness will occure :smile:

Martial.2,500 Years ago:

If pale beans bubble for you in a red earthenware pot, you can often decline the dinners of sumptuous hosts.

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I was thinking maybe mirepoix, garlic, a bay leaf, parsley, a bit of fennel and some peppercorns - plus some sea salt. Does this sound okay?

Sounds good. Personally I would leave out the garlic and fennel as they are pretty strong flavors and could always be added later when making the final product, but that's just me. I also leave the carrot out of the mirepoix for fish stock as it could discolor the stock.

There are so many different ways to make fish stock but I would play around:

  • Sweating the mirepoix, adding bones for a few minutes and then adding water.
  • Sweating the mirepoix then adding the water and then the bones.
  • Starting all ingredients in cold water.

Each method will give you a different flavor and different level of clarity. The first will be the most flavorful but the least clear, the last will be the mildest and the clearest and the middle one will be in the middle. Just depends on what you are doing with the finished stock.

For lobster/shrimp etc. I would roast the shells, it seems to give a richer flavor and a nice color.

I don't think I have a chinoise anymore or sure don't know what happened to it. Would a fine mesh strainer be okay?

Yup. You could also strain through a cheesecloth if you want it super clear and it's better to ladle the stock into the strainer, as opposed to pouring from the pot, so you stir up less of the sediment.

Hope this helps

Dan

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