Eating Nose to Tail


It's apparent that I enjoy eating and preparing offal and other less popular cuts of meat but now that it's summer I've been wanting to include more fish and shellfish in my diet.  The reason I've started this blog is to make sure that I integrate ingredients beyond chop/breast/steak into my diet, and hopefully make those other parts of the animal seem less intimidating to those of you nice enough to read this from time to time.

The big question now is how do I include fish and shellfish into this project, and how do these ingredients fit into my goal of eating nose to tail.

What are the fish and shellfish equivalents of chop/breast/steak?  Fillet's of fish, peeled headless shrimp, things like that?

To counter those products should I cook whole fish, and shrimp (complete with eyes and tails)?  Should I try cooking things like fish collar's?  What about ingredients like squid and octopus?  When I lived in Nova Scotia my parents used to get cod tongues and cheeks as a weekend treat, I wonder if those kinds of ingredients are available in a more urban space?

Things like mussels, lobster's, clams and oysters fit into eating nose to tail because by their nature you eat all of them.  That feels a little like a cop-out, but is it?

I need some guidance, any and all thoughts are more than welcome.



05/30/2009 12:37

I'll help out here. I enjoy seafood far too much.

Start off by visiting and choosing seafood in your area that are Best or Good choices. This will usually lead you to a fish monger that has the same concern about the state of our fisheries and will carry fresher, better products for you to be consuming.

A nice big fillet or steak of salmon, Pacific steelhead trout, halibut, or tuna is the equivalent of your big piece of meat. Some fish, like a snapper, can be roasted whole stuffed with aromatics for a delicious meal.

Fish collars if you can find them are amazing. The cheek meat is the best part on most fish and the fish mongers and cooks save them for themselves. Good luck finding them.

Squid are awesome, but very messy to clean yourself and require delicate cooking. You either cook them for 30 seconds, or 20 minutes. Anything in between that time is rubber. I've decided to avoid eating octopus wherever possible as they have demonstrated as much intelligence as a house pet.

Consider cooking with uni (sea urchin roe). It can be turned into a variety of sauces or foams and is insanely good.

I'd suggest reading to know all you need to know about obtaining, keeping, and enjoying mussels. It'll also let you know what to look out for if you order mussels at a restaurant. Not sure whether or not the restaurant staff knows everything in that article? Order something else, food poisoning from mussels isn't worth it.


05/30/2009 12:59

That's exactly what I was looking for! :)

About the big fillet of salmon, are you saying that is like a cow steak? And that I should try to eat different cuts of fish and stay away from fillet's, or maybe get a whole fish and fillet it myself?

Thanks so much for the Monterey Bay site, what an awesome resource. Really makes me realize how much over fishing is messing with the ocean.

Got any ideas about cool things I could do with squid ink? I'd like to try using whole squid as well as the ink.

05/30/2009 17:29

Fillets are fine, I'm not saying to avoid them at all. I think they are the equivalent of eating a nice bone-in ribeye of the fish world and there's nothing wrong with that.

Cooking a fish whole can be immensely rewarding. I think Anthony Bourdain said it best in Kitchen Confidential:

"Take one fish - a red snapper, striped bass, or dorade - have your fish guy remove gills, guts and scales and wash in cold water. Rub inside and out with kosher salt and crushed black pepper. Jam a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon and a few sprigs of fresh herb - say, rosemary and thyme - into the cavity where the guts used to be. Place on a lightly oiled pan or foil and throw the fish into a very hot oven. Roast till crispy and cooked through. Drizzle a little basil oil over the plate - you know, the stuff you made with your blender and put in your new plastic squeeze bottle? - sprinkle with chiffonaded parsley, garnish with basil... See?"

Picking at the various parts of the whole fish out of the oven is fantastic. Don't forget the cheek meat.

We desperately need to change the way we eat seafood or we'll not have much left in our oceans. It pains me to think that we're making some of the fish that taste the best extinct. For salmonm you only have two choices: wild Alaskan salmon fresh (the season just started!) or frozen (frozen at sea has the density of a rock, Trader Joe's carries it). If that's not available and you want a salmon experience, look into farmed Artic Char ( and farmed Pacific Steelhead trout ( I've found that the products from are sustainable choices are distributed all over. My concern about this problem consumes me, apologies in advance if I get too preachy.

Squid ink pasta is the best application to using the ink, as it gives a wonderful flavor to the pasta. Look around other places for good recipes involving squid ink. I generally trust any recipe from the New York Times, I found this one with little effort:

05/30/2009 19:04

I don't think you're being preachy at all. I have a very good friend who studies all of these water issues, and I believe that when it comes to issues like overfishing there's no harm in lots of information.

Will most definitely being trying my hand at some whole fish sometime soon. I haven't picked up Kitchen Confidential in a while, but that quote is some good inspiration. When I was in culinary school I remember cleaning fish (it was a flounder I think) and it had beautiful pink roe. That's something I'd really like to try again as well.

Thanks for that tip about the New York Times, I'll start poking around there some more in the future.

05/30/2009 19:14

I saw that you were in Boston (totally jealous, I miss Summer Shack) and wanted to point out to you a fish monger I read about on Serious Eats about a month ago. I wish I had a place like this nearby:

05/30/2009 19:24

Thanks for the tip! I'm actually out of town this weekend, but I'll definitely head over there ASAP when I'm back in Boston.

One of my favorite things about Boston when I first moved there was the fish and shellfish. So fresh and so cheap!

I'll let you know how it goes at New Deal when I get back.

06/17/2009 15:34

omg, YUCK!

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