Cook a Fish, Give A Fish Class Teaches You How to Prepare Whole Fish

Eating with the Ecosystem is running online cooking classes that also help purchase fresh local seafood for families in need.
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A whole fluke.

Give me that filet o’ fish. It’s not just a McDonald’s theme song. Now I actually want to buy and eat fillets from a whole fish I prepared myself using actual knife skills. A few weeks ago, I learned how to fillet a fluke. I had roasted a whole fish before, but I had simply doused it with olive oil, salt and pepper and fresh herbs and popped it in the oven. This was a whole new ball game for me. I actually needed a good knife and had to do some actual work.

Luckily, I had an amazing instructor made available through Eating With the Ecosystem’s “Cook a Fish, Give a Fish” online cooking classes. Johnson and Wales University culinary instructor Rizwan Ahmed, also owner of the Rhode Rage food truck, demonstrated the filleting of a whole fish in partnership with the Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island, Eating with the Ecosystem and the Rhode Island Food Policy Council.

In addition to teaching participants something new, the classes are also fundraisers for the hungry. They raise funds to deliver fresh seafood to families in need. Each $75 ticket to the “Give a Fish, Cook a Fish!” online Zoom class will purchase ten seafood meals for Rhode Island families who can’t afford to buy fish this summer. The next class is July 28 (featuring Jason Timothy, chef and owner of Troop) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. You can buy tickets here.

The classes also serve a purpose, and that’s to get more people to buy local species of whole fish or seafood, and prepare and cook it at home. It turns out many people will buy local seafood in restaurants, but they are a bit more skeptical to do so for home cooking. These classes teach you how to prepare local fish and seafood so you can make restaurant-quality meals at home. And the class did not disappoint.

I started out by purchasing and picking up a whole fluke from Andrade’s Catch in Bristol (they are known for locally harvested wild quahogs too). You can also purchase whole fish from Fearless Fish in Providence, through the Local Catch or Narragansett Bay Lobsters, or down at the Galilee docks and many other sources. I brought the fish home and gathered my tools and ingredients for the recipe (a list is provided a week in advance of the class). We were making baked flounder with panko breadcrumbs. Luckily, I already had most of the ingredients on hand, though I needed to pick up some wine (that doesn’t last long in my house).

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Andrade’s Catch fish market in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Once I had everything together, I signed onto the class through Zoom on my computer right in my kitchen, where I joined about eight other guests who were learning how to prepare the recipe, too. Chef Ahmed gave a close up demonstration on video, while Kate Masury from Eating with the Ecosystem provided insight on purchasing whole fish locally as well as other tips. I could even show chef Ahmed what I had done on camera so he could give me advice for improvement (and commend my work!).

Ahmed showed us how to prepare the fish, first by using kitchen scissors to cut off the top and bottom fins of the fish, then the tail. Next, I took my sharp filet knife and sliced down the middle of the fish, from the gills to the tail. After that, I was able to slide the knife between the fish bones and the flesh, until I cut the fillet away from the body. The skin was still on it. We sliced the flesh away from both sides of the fish, and then prepared to separate the flesh from the fish skin. It was my first time and I need some practice, so I did leave a lot of flesh on the bones. I scraped that flesh off and put it in a container in the fridge to use for crudo later (a little olive oil, salt and pepper do it justice).

We prepped cherry tomatoes, garlic, capers, fresh parsley, white wine, salt and pepper and mixed it all up with olive oil to pour over the skinless fish fillets in a baking dish, then topped it all off with panko crumbs.

After baking it in the oven, we couldn’t wait to dig in. The recipe came out fantastic and it tasted even better since I had filleted the fish myself. I will definitely purchase whole fish again and maybe one day I’ll perfect my skills just like chef Ahmed.

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The finished baked fluke.

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