Something Fishy

At The French Culinary Institute this week we had a demo I'll remember for a long time: Chefs showed us how they cut apart a big (and I mean big) fat tuna fish.

Like me, I'm sure you've eaten tuna in many forms: a grilled Ahi tuna steak with your salad nicoise, as raw slices of sashimi, a citrusy tuna tartar or just straight out of a can and into your tuna salad mix. But for all the tuna we consume, how does it happen?

One method discussed was Ike Jime, a Japanese fish-killing technique that involves bleeding and spinal cord destruction. The basic idea is to cut the spine and vessels at the fish's head. Then you cut the spine and blood vessels near the tail. Next you shove a sharp piano wire down the spine to destroy it. You bleed the fish in ice water before removing. Some believe this method preserves the truest flavor of the fish.

A lot of us were also in awe of the two-foot tuna knife that the Japanese chef used to carve up the tuna.

Before culinary school, I was never confident in handling fish. I would always buy filets of fish. These days I'm by no means an expert, but I'm much more confident handling a trout, bass or skate.

I think the best part of knowing how to handle a whole fish is that when you buy it, you can check for freshness first hand. I'm often skeptical of buying fish because I find it hard to determine if the fish was actually as fresh as the person behind the counter claims or if it was raised in a sustainable fashion.