So you spent all that time and money, went out and caught your fish. Now that you have it at home and need to cook it, no need to kill something if you’re not going to eat it. The usual thing is that you fillet the fish and throw away everything else, but there’s so much more you can eat on a fish besides those boneless fillets. There are the fish necks, the throats, the frame, the eggs, and even the whole head.
Yes, they do require a bit of work to clean and dress, but if you’re already doing the work to fillet the fish, what a bit more work to use most fish. First, I would recommend a heavier knife for cleaning the fish. Something in a breaker or deba style blade, a skinny fillet knife won’t be able to cut through the bones around the head or spine. Personally, I use a 9 inch stiff bubba blade, it has enough weight behind it to get through bone, but can still easily fillet fish.
To clean fish in general, I recommend gutting it before filleting the fish to prevent materials from the gastrointestinal tract from touching the meat. Then remove the head at the throat and collars to facilitate the threading process. And then once you’ve removed the fillets from the frame, take a knife and cut off the fins and tail. Then, following the spine, blast the spine joints off with a utility knife and cut the frame into smaller segments. Then you can bake or fry the frame pieces and eat the meat from the bones.
For fish throats and necklaces, remove the gills and remove them as a whole from the back of the skull. Next, cut the membranes and bloodlines from the throat and collars. After that, you want to remove the skin from the fish’s necks and throats. You can usually find a seam between the skin and the meat where you slit the fish’s throat. You can then use skinning pliers or your hands with a paper towel to peel the skin off the collars. Then, depending on the size of the fish, separate the throats from the collars. This way they are easier to eat and cook more evenly.
In this particular case, these collars that came off two cobia weighed over 6 pounds, more than half of which was just meat. Which will mostly end up feeding the marina crabs. Due to their large size, I have split the necklaces into two separate pieces. Then breaded and fried for staff dinner at work. Each piece was large enough to be a one person meal. Same with the frame pieces, just a few pieces contained enough meat for one person to have a decent meal.
Because I have access to commercial fryers, I leave the fins on my collars, but you can cut them off if you don’t have space in your fryer or pan. I recommend frying the fins for most fish, they fry crispy in a kind of fish cracker. The cobia nuggets in this meal came from the rib cage that I deboned. In this case, I was also able to pull the eggs from both fish. While fish roe isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it’s something to consider using. It is very rich and versatile and in the rest of the world it is a common food. In this case, we sprinkled egg pieces in flour and fried them in butter. Then served potatoes with a brown butter caper sauce.
I know in this article I’m cooking mostly a large cobia which earns me more for all that effort. But even with smaller fish, there are ways to use up leftovers. The bones and heads are excellent for fish stock after cutting and washing the head and bones. Which you can use in turn to make a nice seafood chowder or cioppino. Or, for the frame of a smaller fish, you can leave out the fins and bread and fry the whole thing. Frying will crisp up the fins and bones and give you a kind of fish chips