Look at the two fish above. Fairly similar size and weight, both caught within the last 24 hours, so about as fresh as you can get. But the price difference between the two is huge – the bream at the bottom cost £6.51 ($10.22), while the wrasse was £1.34 ($2.10)! And bream isn’t really an expensive fish – if we were comparing Monkfish, it would be around 10 times more expensive per kg than the wrasse.
So why the difference? Bad reputation, essentially. Wrasse is an unpopular fish with both consumers and fisherman in the UK, known as a bony fish with a thick skin, nasty texture and unpleasant taste. Nothing could be further from the truth. Wrasse takes relatively little effort to fillet if you know where to cut – there is no need to remove the scales (it’s easier to skin with them on), and the bones come away easily. When fresh it makes beautiful sashimi, and has a light delicate flavour when cooked. It’s also an essential ingredient in the French dish, Bouillabaisse.
1. After gutting the fish, at the same angle as the edge of the head, cut about 1 inch back, almost at the edge of the pectoral fin
2. Holding the tail firmly, cut as close to the bone as you can, slicing down as far as the original cut.
3. Start an incision at the tail end between the skin and the fillet, then holding the skin tightly (use a cloth, paper towel or even pliers) continue cutting as close to the skin as you can. Remove any remaining pin bones with tweezers if you prefer.
You’ll end up with two reasonably sized fillets; slice finely with the grain to make sashimi, or grill for just a minute each side, season and drizzle with some good olive oil.
Living near the sea, I really should be catching my own fish. But after reading the following sentence in my fishing magazine:
“This is as simple as a swivel and bead hook snood connection on a mono paternoster, being secured not with a crimp but via a power gum stop knot or a rubber stop (slipping snood).”
I think I’ll leave it to the professionals…