We all know many of you enjoy preparing and eating your catch. After all, for many that is one of the most satisfying part of this sport.  Not only do you catch a fish but you get to treat your family to some delicious filets for the dinner table. But do tell us, how much do you detest the actual process of cleaning the fish? C’mon, you can be honest, no one is watching….

If you are like me, you probably have second thoughts of why you just did not go to the seafood place to buy filets as you proceed to butcher the living daylights out of the poor striper. I will readily admit that if people from PETA had ever seen me cleaning the fish, I would become a poster boy for the cruelty to the species. Which is remarkable considering the only tool I use every day, five days a week for the last 25 years at work is a….Dexter filet knife!!!

Yes, but cutting fiberglass insulation is a lot easier then filleting a fish. There is no mess, no blood, no slime and no bones. So although I am quite skilled with making something out of nothing at work with a  knife  when it comes to cleaning fish I am a googan. And I have a felling many of you are in the same boat with me. To get really good at any craft you need repetition. No wonder a party boat mates and seafood store workers can cut a fish with eyes closed, they do it every day. If you are filleting a striper every day, we got serious issues with that. We believe in harvesting to enjoy the fruits of the nature, but no one needs a striper filets every day unless you are selling them or giving them away to your friends.

So if I am right, and many of you are as inept as I am in procuring a clean cut of a filet you will be left with a lot of meat that is just too darn precious to see go to waste. Even if you are an expert in filleting the fish, there is still a lot more meat that can be harvested from around the cheeks, between the bones, around the head. This meat although not suitable to be presented as a filet is a delicious meat from one of the most sought-after fish in the northeast. Do you just toss it in the water and let seagulls and crabs feast on it? I used to do that but I do not do it anymore. My wife had bought me a copy of Lidia Batsinich ” Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen ” book few years ago. Inside I found a wonderful recipe which is tailor made for use with scraps and pieces that are left after filleting the fish. Not that is anything wrong with using a filet and cutting it into cubes  of course.

I am not good of following the recipes to a tee, I am more of a “seat-of-the-pants” cook, adding or subtracting ingredients as I see  fit , depending what mood I am in. And also depending what I have on hand or on in the fridge. Having said that ,some things you can’t mess with. For example, the duration of cooking something that has a delicate flesh like a fish. Poaching or using a ” short broth” is what you want to do to get most out of this recipe. In her book, Linda recommends  using a court bouillon to cook the fish and then mixing it into the salad once the fish cools off.

You are probably asking what the hell is a court bouillon?

According to Wikipedia, court bouillon loosely translates as ‘briefly boiled liquid” or “short broth” because the cooking time is brief in comparison with a rich and complex stock, and generally is not served as part of the finished dish. Since delicate foods do not cook for very long, it is prepared before the foods are added.  Although a court bouillon may become the base for  stock or fumet, in traditional terms it is differentiated by the inclusion of  acidulating ingredients such as wine, vinegar or lime juice. In addition to contributing their own flavor, acids help to draw flavors from the vegetable aromatics during the short preparation time prior to use. Court bouillon also includes salt and lacks animal gelatin. Traditionally, court bouillon is water, salt, white wine, vegetable aromatics (mirepoix of carrot, onion, and celery), and flavored with bouquet garni and black pepper.

From Lidia Matticchio Bastianich book

Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen available on Amazon.com


Striped Bass Salad

Court bouillon (see preparation below)

1 large cucumber

1 medium red onion sliced thin (about 1 cup)

2 to 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 pound striped-bass fillets or steaks or any

other  firm-fleshed fish, like sea bass or black bass,

or head and trimmings from a

5-pound whole fish

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed

3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, or as needed

Crushed hot red pepper




For the Court Bouillon:

2 quarts water

½ cup dry white wine vinegar

2 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths

4 bay leaves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns



Make the court bouillon: Bring the water, wine, celery, carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt to a boil in a wide casserole or skillet.  Adjust the heat to simmering, cover, and cook 10 minutes.


While the court bouillon is simmering, trim the ends from the cucumber, peel it, and cut it in half lengthwise.  Scrape out the seeds—or leave them in if you like them—and cut the cucumber pieces into half-moons.  Place the cucumber, red onion, and parsley in a mixing bowl.


Slide the bass into the boiling court bouillon and reduce the heat immediately to simmer.  Cook until the fish “opens up” – barely starts to flake—about 8 minutes.  Remove the fillets and cool them to room temperature.  Peel off the skin if necessary, and scrape or cut away the soft, darker meat from the skin side of the fillet.  Flake the fish into big pieces, removing any bones and adding the fish pieces to the mixing bowl as you do.


Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the salad and toss to mix.  Season generously with crushed red pepper and salt to taste.  Spoon in enough of the reserved cooking liquid to make the salad nice and juicy.  Taste the salad, adding more vinegar, salt, or crushed red pepper if you like.  Mound the salad high on a deep serving platter and spoon the juices left in the bowl over it.  If you like, drizzle olive oil onto the platter around the salad.


I love this salad – “it’s so fresh and clean-tasting.  Sometimes I make a meal of it.  Because I really want you to make this salad, I’m calling for store – bought fillets.  But if you have a whole striped bass that you’ve filleted, this salad is a great way to use odds and ends from the fish.  Poach the fish head and the belly parts you’ve trimmed from the fillets in the court bouillon.  Remove the meat from the cheeks and along the top of the head, and trim the bellies of bones and skin.


          I like the crushed red pepper to be conspicuous in this salad, so don’t be afraid to use it.  Start with about ½ teaspoon and go from there.  And don’t throw the cooking liquid out: save it to make the salad nice and juicy.  You could use crabmeat or even chicken instead.  I guess, but white fish, like the bass, is perfect prepared this way.


6 comments on “Yummy

  1. mark d

    i suck. when i was a comercial fisherman i could dress halibut and black cod as well as anyone on the planet. but only the cook filets fish on a commercial boat and i was never the cook …by popular demand.

  2. BigFishlarry

    I do pretty good filleting a striper! I am very cautious not to waste any meat in doing so however I do not bother with the cheeks…….too small to bother most of the time. I only keep about 10 fish a season plus or minus so I don’t get too proficient at it! Its the mess I hate cleaning up afterwards….its alot of work cleaning a couple of fish! I make fishcakes or fish chowder with the striper and by all accounts its always worth my effort! mIts just so damn good!

  3. Robert k.

    Even after watching and attempting for 4 years helping out at a B&T shop
    When I try to filet a fish it still looks like a murder scene. Good thing I have
    A Ecuador mother in law 🙂 poor meat does not stand a chance of escaping
    Every nook and cranny !

  4. Bob Mirynowski

    Zeno, I’m sure this salad would be equally good with any leftover cooked bass. I usually grill bass and make a salad with the leftovers. Also, use leftover bass instead of canned tuna in a mayo based bass salad. Beats the canned fishy tuna any day!


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