Bubbe Lottie
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Speaking of Fish...

Bubbe Lottie’s mother, Etta, was a feisty little redhead. During Prohibition she ran a candy store, where in the back room she made cider. Occasionally (through no fault of her own, of course) the cider would ferment and become “hard.” When that happened, the candy store became quite busy. In this fashion, Etta helped the family make it through hard times.

One year, just before Rosh Hashanah, she took Lottie with her when she went to the fishmonger to buy fish for her Gefilte Fish. Determined to have only the best and the freshest, she rejected one after the other that the man offered her. As he dug through the case of fish looking for one that would suit his picky customer, a fish jumped up and bit him on the finger. “Lady, is this one fresh enough for you?” he asked. “It’ll do,” Etta replied. “I’ll take it.”

The most important factor in cooking a fish is its freshness. The sooner a fish is used after being caught, the tastier it will be. Check for freshness by gently squeezing it...the flesh should be firm and the scales firmly attached to the skin. It should smell good and its eyes should be bulging, not sunken in the head. A recently caught fish will float in cold water.

If you cannot use your fish immediately, store it in a covered container in a very cold refrigerator or place it on ice that you can drain, so that the fish will not soak up the water. A whitish coating means that the fish has dried out from being frozen and then defrosted.

Fish can be deep fried, baked, broiled, grilled, steamed or poached. Never overcook your fish. A fish is done when the flesh loses its translucency and it flakes easily and also returns to its original shape when you press it gently with your finger. To minimize the “fishy” odor, marinate or cook with vinegar, lemon, wine and onions. To get that odor off your hands, rub them with lemon juice or vinegar. Never refreeze thawed frozen fish. Cook it immediately. Fish can be cooked while frozen, just double the recommended cooking time for fresh.

Fish can be either ocean fish or freshwater. Ocean fish include albacore, butterfish, chub, cod, flounder, haddock, halibut, herring, mackerel, pompano, porgy, red snapper, sardines, sole, tuna and whiting, among others. Freshwater fish include bass, buffalo, carp, catfish, lake herring, perch, pike, sunfish, brook trout and whitefish. Some fish are seasonal; others are available all year round.

Fish are an excellent source of protein, much less fatty than meat. Leftover fish can be used in salads or croquettes. Canned fish, such as tuna, salmon, pickled and kippered herring and sardines come in handy when making a quick dairy meal. Smoked white fish, lox (smoked salmon) and other smoked fish from the local deli make a delightful addition to that meal or to a dairy platter for a special occasion.

Find some of Bubbe's favorite fish recipes here.

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