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The Homemaker’s Guide To Cooking Fish (Miss Parloa’s Young Housekeeper)

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FRESH fish should frequently be substituted for meat. For those who live in seaboard towns there is no trouble in obtaining a variety. Every inland place has its own peculiar species, which should have precedence over other kinds; for the first thing to be taken into account is freshness. Fish brought from a distance deteriorates with the handling it receives and the time it is out of the water.

The lighter the fish, the greater the variety of modes by which it may be cooked. It also may be served more frequently without one’s becoming tired of it.

For example, at the Isles of Shoals visitors are offered broiled scrod every day in the week, yet they do not weary of the dish in a stay of months. At Nantucket broiled bluefish is served daily, and it is so delicious that its appearance three times a day would at first be hailed with pleasure; but after a short time the appetite would become palled, because the fish is rich.

It would be the same with the freshest and most toothsome salmon and mackerel. A rich fish satiates much sooner than a lighter and poorer kind, and for this reason it is advisable to avoid having the richer varieties frequently.

Of course, the poorer kinds require more and richer sauces than salmon, mackerel, or bluefish. Whitefish, like cod, haddock, cusk, halibut, and flounders, is improved by the addition of sauces made of milk, cream, or white stock.

Boiling is the least desirable mode of preparing fish, because it causes the greatest loss of flavor and nutriment. A fine sauce is needed to make the dish satisfactory.

But 97boiling has one merit: the remains of the fish after the first meal are in better form for use in little dishes of many kinds than they are if any other way of cooking be employed. Small fish, like brook trout, smelts, etc., are best when fried.

How to Boil Fish.

Fresh fish should always be put on to cook in salted boiling water. A little lemon juice or vinegar in the water makes the flesh of the fish firmer and improves the flavor.

For some tastes the flavor is improved still more by putting in the water, tied in a piece of cheese-cloth, a few spoonfuls of minced onion, carrot, and celery, two bay leaves, a sprig each of thyme, parsley, and summer savory, a small bit of cinnamon, and two whole cloves.

There should be only water enough to cover the fish. If there be a fish-kettle with a tray, lay the fish in the tray and do not wrap it in a cloth. If, however, there be no regular fish-kettle, pin the fish in a piece of cloth, put a large plate in the bottom of a large flat saucepan, and lay the fish on this.

A thick square of fish will take longer to cook than the same number of pounds cut from a long, slender fish. A small cod, haddock, bluefish, lake trout, salmon trout, whitefish, etc., weighing from three to five pounds, will require thirty minutes’ cooking.

The water should bubble only at the side of the saucepan. A large fish of the same kind, weighing six or eight pounds, would require only ten minutes’ more time. A thick square or cube of halibut or salmon, weighing from three to five pounds, would require forty minutes’ cooking; and if it weighed six or eight pounds, it would require an hour. If the fish be put into cold water the juices will be drawn out.

The fish will be broken if the water be allowed to boil hard during the cooking. A good sauce should always be served with boiled fish.

Baked Fish.

  • 1/2 pint of cracker crumbs.
  • 1/2 pint cold water.
  • 1 teaspoonful of salt.
  • 1/4 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • 2 tablespoonfuls of butter.
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of summer savory.
  • 1 teaspoonful of minced parsley.
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of onion juice.
  • 3 ounces of fat salt pork.
  • A fish weighing about four or five pounds.

For the dressing, mix the cracker crumbs, herbs, salt, pepper, and butter together; then moisten with water, and add the onion juice. Have the fish split and drawn, but leave on the head and tail. Gut off the fins and scrape off any scales that may still cling to it.

Wash and wipe dry; then rub one tablespoonful of salt into it, put the dressing in the opening, and pin together with a skewer. Cut slits on the top of the fish, about two inches long and half an inch deep. Cut the salt pork in strips and fit them into these slits.

Butter a flat tin sheet and place in the dripping-pan. Lay the fish in the pan, having uppermost the side containing the pork. Dredge with pepper, salt, and flour. Put enough hot water in the pan to cover the bottom, and place in the oven.

Bake for forty-five minutes, basting every fifteen generously with the gravy in the pan and lightly with salt, pepper, and flour. When done, lift the tin from the dripping-pan and slide the fish upon a warm dish. Serve with brown, tomato, or Hollandaise sauce.

Fish that cannot be stuffed, such as halibut, may be cooked in the same way. Three pounds of halibut would be equivalent to a five-pound cod or haddock.

In giving the rule for so large a fish, allowance was made for the leaving of enough cold fish to make a dish of escaloped fish the next day.

Baked Salt Mackerel.

  • 1 salt mackerel of medium size.
  • 3 gills of milk.
  • 1 tablespoonful of butter.
  • 1 level tablespoonful of flour.
  • 1/8 teaspoonful of pepper.

Wash the mackerel and soak it in a pan of cold water, having the split side down. In the morning put the fish, split side up, in a shallow baking pan. Pour the milk over it, and place in a moderate oven. When the mackerel has been cooking for twenty minutes, mix the butter, flour, and pepper, and stir the mixture into the milk in the pan. Cook ten minutes longer; then slide the fish out on a hot dish and pour the sauce over it. Serve hot.

This dish is suitable for breakfast, luncheon, dinner, or supper. Serve with it potatoes in some form.

How Fish should be Broiled.

Simple as is the work of broiling a piece of fish, it is more often done badly than well. If not cooked enough the fish is extremely disagreeable to the taste, and if cooked too much it is hard and dry. It is always best to have an exact rule as to the time it shall be cooked; when the fish is put on the fire, look at the clock, and take it off as soon as it is done.

A split fish, such as shad, whitefish, mackerel, scrod, bluefish, etc., should be timed according to the thickness. If the fire be bright and hot, a fish an inch thick can be cooked twelve minutes. If two inches thick, it will take twenty minutes. Of course, when the fire is dull it will take longer.

Always season fish with salt and pepper before cooking. A fish with the skin on should be broiled with the skin side from the fire until the last five minutes of cooking, when that side can be turned to the fire; but it must be watched closely, that it shall not burn.

It is only dry halibut that requires the butter and flour before broiling. Many people prefer to dip the slice of fish in olive oil rather than butter. If the oil be used it must not be heated, and it is well to apply it to the fish an hour or more before the cooking.

Various sauces are often served with broiled fish, but there is nothing better than sweet butter, salt, pepper, a little lemon juice, and perhaps a little chopped parsley; or, the lemon juice may be omitted and a fresh lemon be cut into six parts as a garnish for the dish. Each person can then use as much of the acid as pleases him.

Broiled Halibut.

  • 1-1/2 pounds of halibut.
  • 2 tablespoonfuls of butter.
  • 1 teaspoonful of lemon juice.
  • 1-1/2 teaspoonfuls of salt.
  • 1/4 teaspoonful of pepper.

Have the halibut cut in a slice about an inch thick. Put half the butter, salt, and pepper in a hot soup plate, and stir until the butter is melted. Wash and wipe the fish, then lay it in the plate of seasoned butter. When one side is coated with the butter, turn it down and season the other.

Dredge lightly with flour, place in the double-broiler, and cook over a hot, bright fire for fourteen minutes. Put on a hot dish and season with the remaining salt, pepper, butter, and the lemon juice, all mixed. Serve very hot.

Fried Fish.

  • 2 pounds of fish.
  • 3 ounces of fat salt pork.
  • 1/4 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • 1 teaspoonful of salt.
  • Flour.

Have the fish cut in slices about an inch thick. Season these with the salt and pepper, and roll in flour. Cut the pork in thin slices and fry until crisp and brown. Take the pork from the pan, and put the fish in the hot fat. When it has become browned on one side, turn it and brown the other side. It will take about twelve minutes to fry the fish. Arrange on a hot dish and lay the slices of pork on top. Serve hot.

All small fish, such as trout, perch, and smelts, may be cooked in this manner. Draw and wash them, but leave on the heads and tails of the smelts and trout. Some kinds of small fish need to be skinned, but this is done at the market.

Breaded Fish.

  • 1/2 pint of dried bread crumbs.
  • 1-1/2 teaspoonfuls of salt.
  • 1/6 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • 1 egg.
  • 2 pounds of any kind of fish.
  • Fat for frying.

Have the fish free from skin and bones, and cut it into handsome pieces. Season it with the salt and pepper. Beat the egg in a soup plate and dip the fish in it, one piece at a time, getting every part covered with the egg; then roll in the crumbs and lay on a plate. Have enough fat in the frying kettle to float the fish. When it becomes so hot that blue smoke rises from the centre, put in the fish and cook for five minutes. Drain on brown paper and serve very hot.

Tartar sauce is particularly good to serve with breaded fish. Smelts are especially palatable when cooked in this manner.

Escaloped Fish.

  • 1/2 pint of cooked fish.
  • 1 teaspoonful (scant) of salt.
  • 1/5 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • 1 tablespoonful of butter.
  • 1/2 tablespoonful (scant) of flour.
  • 1-1/2 gills of milk.
  • 4 tablespoonfuls of grated bread crumbs.

Use any kind of cold cooked fish; but the white kinds, such as halibut, cod, haddock, etc., are the best. Have it broken into flakes and freed of bones and skin. Season it with half the salt and pepper. Put a generous half of the butter in a small pan and set on the fire.

When it is hot add the flour, and stir until the mixture is smooth and frothy; then gradually add the milk. Boil up once, and stir in the remainder of the salt and pepper. Put a layer of this sauce in a small baking dish, then a layer of the fish, and follow with a second layer of sauce.

Now put in the rest of the fish and cover with the remainder of the sauce. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and dot with the other half tablespoonful of butter. Bake in a moderately hot oven for twenty minutes, and serve at once.

The baking dish should hold nearly a pint.

Salt Codfish in Cream.

  • 1/2 pint of fish, solidly packed.
  • 1-1/2 gills of milk.
  • 1 teaspoonful of butter, generous.
  • 1 teaspoonful of flour.
  • 1/3 saltspoonful of pepper.

Cut the salt fish into pieces about an inch and a half long, and tear these pieces into thin strips. Wash them and, putting them in a bowl with one pint of cold water, let them soak over night, or at least four or five hours. In the morning put the fish and water in a saucepan and set on the fire. Heat to the boiling point, but do not let boil. Drain off the water, and, after adding the milk, heat again to the boiling point.

Beat the butter and flour together until light and smooth. Stir this mixture in with the fish, and boil up once. Add the pepper, and also some salt if any be required. Set back where the fish will continue to cook, but not boil, for twenty minutes.

If cream be plentiful use half cream and half milk. Serve baked or mashed potatoes with this dish.

Fish Balls.

  • 1 cupful of raw salt codfish.
  • 6 potatoes of medium size.
  • 1 egg.
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of salt.
  • 1/4 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • 1 level tablespoonful of butter.

Tear the raw fish into fine shreds, and measure out a cupful. Pare the potatoes, and put them in a large stewpan. Sprinkle the fish on top and cover with boiling water. Cover, and cook for just thirty minutes.

Pour off every drop of the water, and mash the fish and potato together until light and fine; then beat into the mixture the salt, pepper, butter, and the egg, which should first be well beaten. Shape into small balls, and, putting them in the frying-basket, cook in deep fat until brown,—say for about four or five minutes.

Great care must be taken to follow the directions exactly, and to have the fat so hot when the fish balls are put in that blue smoke rises from the centre. If the fat be not hot enough, or the water be not all drained off, or if too much butter be used, the fish balls will absorb fat and be spoiled. If all the work be done carefully, the dish will be perfect.

Fish Cakes.

  • 1 pint of minced salt codfish.
  • 1 pint of hot mashed potatoes (about six potatoes of medium size).
  • 1/2 gill of hot milk.
  • 1 tablespoonful of butter.
  • 1/4 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of salt.
  • 2 ounces of fat salt pork.

Wash the fish and soak it over night, in one piece. In the morning put it in a saucepan and on the fire, with enough cold water to cover it. When the water is heated to the boiling point set the saucepan back where the water will keep hot, but not boil.

Cook the fish in this manner for one hour; then take from the water and cool. When cold, remove the skin and bones and chop the fish fine. Pare the potatoes, and put them in a stewpan with boiling water enough to cover them.

Cook for just thirty minutes; then drain off the water, and mash and beat the potatoes with a fork. Beat the fish, butter, salt, pepper, and milk into the potato. Shape the mixture into round, flat cakes, and fry brown on both sides in pork fat.

The pork is cut into slices and fried rather slowly until crisp and brown. The pan is then placed on a hotter part of the fire, and the pork removed; and as soon as the fat is smoking hot, the cakes should be put in to brown. Serve the cakes on a hot dish, garnishing them with the slices of crisp pork.

This is a generous amount for three people, and in some families it may be found that half the amount will be enough.

When the fish cakes are for breakfast, cook, cool, and mince the fish the day before. Pare the potatoes, and let them stand in cold water over night. These preparations will insure having the fish cakes on time and in perfection for an early breakfast.

Fresh Fish Cakes.

  • 1/2 pint of cooked fresh fish.
  • 1/2 pint of hot mashed potato.
  • 1 tablespoonful of butter.
  • 1 level teaspoonful of salt.
  • 1/8 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • 2 tablespoonfuls of pork fat.

Free the cold fish from skin and bones, and shred it fine with a fork. Season it with the salt and pepper. Mash the potato fine and beat the butter and fish into it. Shape into flat cakes. Have the pork fat smoking hot in the frying-pan and put in the fish cakes. When brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Serve immediately.

Fried Scallops.

  • 1 dozen scallops.
  • 1 egg.1 teaspoonful of salt.
  • 1/5 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • 1/2 pint of dried bread crumbs.
  • Fat for frying.

After seasoning the scallops with the salt and pepper, dip them in the beaten egg and roll them in the dried bread crumbs. Put the scallops in the frying-basket and immerse the basket into fat so hot that blue smoke rises from the centre. Cook for two minutes. Drain on brown paper and serve very hot.

Do not put more scallops in the basket than can be spread on the bottom.

Tartar sauce is especially good for this dish.

Oyster Stew.

  • 1 gill of water.
  • 1-1/2 pints of oysters.
  • 1-1/2 pints of milk.
  • 1-1/2 tablespoonfuls of butter.
  • 1/4 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • Salt.

Put a strainer over a bowl and turn the oysters into it. Drain off all the liquor, and then pour one gill of water over the oysters. Pour this liquor into a stewpan, being careful not to turn in the sandy sediment. Place where it will heat slowly, being careful not to burn.

When the liquor boils, skim it, and set back where it will keep hot. Meantime heat the milk to the boiling point in the double-boiler. Add the hot liquor, oysters, butter, salt, and pepper to the boiling milk. Boil up once, and serve immediately.

Oysters on Toast.

  • 1-1/2 pints of oysters.
  • 2 tablespoonfuls of butter.
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of lemon juice.
  • 1/10 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • Salt.
  • 3 slices of toast.

Put the oysters in a frying-pan and set on the fire. When they begin to boil, skim them; then add the seasonings. Have the toast arranged on a hot dish and pour the oysters over it. Serve at once.

Oysters au Gratin.

  • 1 solid pint of oysters.
  • 1 gill of oyster liquor.
  • 1/2 gill of milk or cream.
  • 1-1/2 tablespoonfuls of butter.
  • 1 tablespoonful of flour.
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of salt.
  • 1/4 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • 1/2 pint of grated bread crumbs.

Heat the oysters to the boiling point in their own liquor; then turn them into a strainer, which should be placed over a bowl. Put a gill of the oyster liquor in a saucepan, and heat slowly. Beat one tablespoonful of the butter and flour together until light and smooth.

Stir this mixture into the hot liquor, and cook for three minutes; then add the milk, salt, and pepper. Heat to the boiling point and add the drained oysters. Now turn the oysters into rather a shallow escalop dish. Sprinkle the crumbs over them, and over the crumbs sprinkle the half tablespoonful of butter, broken in bits.

Bake for twenty minutes in a moderately hot oven. If the flavor of nutmeg and Parmesan cheese be liked, add to the sauce one teaspoonful of the grated cheese and a slight grating of nutmeg.

Escaloped Oysters.

  • 1-1/2 solid pints of oysters.
  • 2 generous tablespoonfuls of butter.
  • 1-1/2 gills of cracker crumbs.
  • 1 teaspoonful of salt.
  • 1/4 teaspoonful of pepper.

Put half the oysters in a dish that will hold about one quart. Sprinkle over them half the salt and pepper and half a tablespoonful of butter, broken in bits. Spread half the cracker crumbs over this. Now put in the remainder of the oysters, salt, pepper, and half a tablespoonful of the butter.

Spread the remainder of the cracker crumbs over this, and then dot with the remaining tablespoonful of butter. Pour the liquor on the cracker crumbs, and bake in a hot oven for half an hour.

Fried Oysters.

  • 2 dozen large oysters.
  • 3 gills of dried bread crumbs.
  • 1 egg.
  • 1 tablespoonful of milk.
  • 1 teaspoonful of salt.
  • 1/5 teaspoonful of pepper.

Drain the oysters, and season them with the salt and pepper. Put a few tablespoonfuls of the crumbs on a plate and roll the oysters in them. Beat the egg in a soup plate and afterward stir the milk into it. Dip the oysters, one at a time, in this mixture, and roll in plenty of bread crumbs.

Place them on a platter and set in a cool place. When it is time to cook them, put a layer in the frying basket and plunge into fat so hot that blue smoke rises from the centre. Cook for one minute and a half, and serve at once.

Never place one breaded oyster on top of another before they have been fried.

The milk may be omitted, and two tablespoonfuls of tomato ketchup be used instead.

Creamed Oysters.

  • 1-1/2 pints of oysters.
  • 3 gills of milk or cream.
  • 1 tablespoonful of flour.
  • 1 teaspoonful of salt.
  • 1/5 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • A tiny piece of mace.
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of onion juice.

Put the milk and mace in the double-boiler, and set on the fire. Mix the flour with three tablespoonfuls of cold milk, reserved from the three gills, and stir into the boiling milk. Cook for ten minutes. Heat the oysters to the boiling point in their own liquor; then skim and drain them. Put the oysters, salt, pepper, and onion juice into the thickened cream, and serve.

If milk be used, add a tablespoonful of butter to the thickened milk.

Lobster.

Lobster should be perfectly fresh. If it be cooked, the odor should be fresh and the shells look bright, and when the tail is drawn back it should spring into position again. If the lobster be bought alive, see that it moves lively. To boil it, plunge it into boiling water and cook gently from ten to twenty minutes. A very small lobster will cook in ten minutes and a large one in twenty.

Cooking a lobster too long or at too high a temperature makes it tough, dry, and stringy. When it is impossible to get the fresh lobster, the canned article may be used instead, though it is of the greatest importance to buy only the goods put up by first-class houses.

Curry of Lobster.

  • 1-1/2 gills of lobster meat.
  • 1/2 pint of meat stock.
  • 2 tablespoonfuls of butter.
  • 1 generous tablespoonful of flour.
  • 1 teaspoonful of salt.
  • 1/6 teaspoonful of Cayenne.
  • 1/6 teaspoonful of white pepper.
  • 1 teaspoonful of curry powder.
  • 1 tablespoonful of minced onion.
  • 3 slices of toast.

Cut the lobster into small pieces and season with half the salt and pepper. Put the butter and onion on the fire, in a frying-pan, and cook until the onion turns a straw color; then add the flour and curry-powder and stir until brown. Gradually add the stock to this, stirring all the while.

Season with the remainder of the salt and pepper, and cook for three minutes. Strain this into a saucepan, and add the lobster. Cook for five minutes. Cut the slices of toast in strips and lay in a warm dish. Pour the lobster over these and serve at once.

The toast may be omitted, and a dish of boiled rice be served with the curry.

Fricassee of Lobster.

A fricassee of lobster is prepared the same as a curry; omitting, however, the curry-powder and onion. Milk may be substituted for the meat stock.

Breaded Lobster.

  • 1 large lobster.
  • 1 egg.
  • 1 teaspoonful of salt.
  • 1/6 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • Dried bread crumbs.
  • Fat for frying.

Split the claws and tail and set aside. Take the meat from the large joints and the body, and chop fine. Mix with this one fourth of the teaspoonful of salt and two tablespoonfuls of the “tom-alley.” Shape this into three small flat cakes. Season the pieces of lobster with the salt and pepper.

Beat the egg in a soup plate. Dip the pieces of lobster and the little cakes, one at a time, into the egg; then roll in the bread crumbs, and, after arranging on a plate, put in a cool place until the hour to cook them. When that time comes, put the breaded lobster in the frying basket and cook in fat until crisp and brown (about two minutes). Serve with Tartar sauce.

Escaloped Lobster.

  • 3 gills of lobster.
  • 1/2 pint of cream or stock.
  • 1-1/2 tablespoonfuls of butter.
  • 1/2 pint of grated bread crumbs.
  • 1 teaspoonful of salt.
  • 1/8 teaspoonful of Cayenne.
  • 1 tablespoonful of flour.

Mix in a saucepan one tablespoonful of the butter and all the flour. Have the stock or cream hot, and pour it gradually on the butter and the flour, stirring all the time. Add half the salt and pepper, and cook for one minute. Have the lobster cut fine, and seasoned with the other half of the salt and pepper.

When the sauce has cooked for one minute, add the lobster. Now pour the mixture into a shallow escalop dish. Sprinkle the grated bread crumbs on this, and then dot with the half tablespoonful of butter. Bake in a hot oven for fifteen minutes.

If cream be used, measure the flour lightly; but if stock be taken, allow a generous tablespoonful.

Escaloped Crabs.

Prepare the same as escaloped lobster; using, however, only half a pint of crab meat.

Escaloped Shrimps.

Prepare this dish in the same manner as escaloped lobster; substituting, however, shelled shrimps for the lobster.

Stewed Clams.

  • 1 pint of shelled clams.
  • 1 gill of milk.
  • 1 tablespoonful of butter.
  • 1/6 teaspoonful of pepper.
  • 1 level teaspoonful of salt.
  • 1 heaping teaspoonful of flour.
  • 3 Boston butter crackers.

Put the milk on the fire in the double-boiler. Put the clams in a strainer and pour a quart of cold water over them. Let them drain for about one minute, and then, turning them into a stewpan, place them on the stove. Beat the butter and flour to a cream, and stir this mixture into the pan containing the hot clams.

Add the hot milk, salt, and pepper, and cook for two minutes longer. Have the crackers soaked for two minutes in cold water, and then toasted. Lay them in the bottom of a deep dish, and when the clams are stewed pour them over the toast.

Roast Clams.

Wash the clam shells thoroughly and drain them in the colander for a few minutes. Spread them in an old dripping-pan and put them into a hot oven. The shells will begin to open in five or eight minutes.

Take them from the oven, and, holding the shell over a warm dish, let the clam and juice drop out. Season with butter, salt, and pepper, and serve very hot, with thin slices of buttered brown bread.

When possible, get the clams twenty-four hours before they are to be used, and after washing them thoroughly put them in a pan with just enough cold water to cover them; then, for a peck of clams, sprinkle in half a pint of corn meal. This will make the clams plump and tender.

Steamed Clams.

Prepare the clams as for roasting, but put them in a dish and place it in the steamer. When the shells open the clams are done.

Fish recipes from the 1800s. These are awesome 19th century old fashioned vintage recipes! Perfect ideas for fish Fridays during Lent. The lighter the fish, the greater the variety of modes by which it may be cooked. It also may be served more frequently without one’s becoming tired of it. Fish recipes for vintage homemakers.
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