It’s almost 4 years now that I filleted a whole fish for the first time in my life. Since then I stopped counting the number of fish I’ve filleted and really gained routine in getting clean and beautiful cuts as result. Nowadays I prefer to buy whole fish at the local market, because this way I can use the bones, head, tail and fins as well to cook a flavorful fish stock, which really enhances sauces, risottos and soups. I prefer to buy local and traditional fish such as trout, char or carp. Sea fish are no options for me, because I don’t have any reliable source for buying fresh seafood, and my hometown Erlangen is simply too far away from the sea.
Regarding the connection between seafood consumption and the distance to the sea, I had a surprising experience a few years ago in Italy, which I like to bring up every time I’m asked about seafood. I was lucky to get a publication accepted at a major conference in computer science, which was held in the beautiful city of Florence. Of course, I used the lunch breaks and the evenings to explore the local restaurant scene. I was even more fortunate having a receptionist at my hotel who was actually a native Florentine citizen. As almost everybody in Italy, he loved to eat, and especially to eat well. So from the first day on I consulted him which restaurant he recommends me to visit. I wasn’t a regular tourist, I really wanted to get to know the real local cuisine. He always told me only the next location I should go to and based on my report the next day he recommended me the next place to visit. This tactic was quite comprehensible, because I could have been a usual tourist, who actually might have been afraid of tripe, wild boar or other local specialties. But he pretty soon learned, that I was after the real local cuisine.
Have you ever wondered why fish in Germany – and almost everywhere in Europe – is gutted with a cut at its belly? It’s straightforward to some extent, because all innards are located in the belly, and by removing them along with the gills, the fish can be kept refrigerated 3-4 days longer. In China I noticed that fish are usually kept alive in restaurants and killed to order. An even more interesting experience was to see that all fish was cut open and gutted from its back, so the bellies of the fish were always completely intact. I liked this back filleting method simply because the possibilities of stuffing and serving a whole fish. Unfortunately, at the local market in Erlangen they don’t sell any fish alive and all of them are already gutted via a cut along their bellies. So my filleting from the back basically resulted in two fillets held together by the head and the tail of the fish, but made the seasoning of the whole fish a lot simpler and more precise.
Steak tartare appears quite often on menus in Hungarian restaurants. Usually the beef loin is matured covered in oil and some spices and herbs. This is a necessary step – unfortunately meat is not allowed to be aged long enough because of regulations of the health department. The beef is then minced using a grinder to order and usually served already mixed with spices, onions, garlic, an egg yolk and toast. This is the classic version you get in Hungary, but nowadays more elaborate tartares start to show up. Recently, I had a steak tartare at the Winekitchen, where the beef was finely chopped to order (by hand!) and served with fresh warm bread and mayonnaise made of pumpkin seed oil. It inspired me to create my own summer version of steak tartare.
Apricots belong to a special group of fruits. While most fruits loose more or less flavor when cooked, for apricots actually some gentle heat really enhances and helps to develop their flavor. Therefore it is always wise to bake or cook apricots before any further use. Or – if there is no time – just simply toss with some brandy or schnaps and flambe. For baked apricots you can either leave the skin on (and remove easily after baking) to get a more vibrant sour and tart note. Otherwise briefly blanch the apricots in hot water and peel them. For this current recipe I removed the skin because I didn’t want to have too much tartness in the end result. I baked the apricots at low temperature on a herb bed which enriched its flavor and took it in a savory direction. The original idea for the herb baked apricots itself is based on a recipe from German 3-star chef Juan Amador‘s cookbook. I’ve already prepared it several times and always tweak on the combination of herbs and the preparation. E.g. removing the skin before baking is clearly a better choice. The apricots pair really well with liver or mushrooms. In this recipe I incorporated them in a terrine, which can be used in multiple ways.