Ever heard of a fish chop? Well, it’s not a wrestling move or a deadly one-punch tae kwon do maneuver. A fish chop is the meat that remains around the collar of a fish; this lesser-known cut of the fish is generally used to make fumet (fish stock) or, if you work in my kitchen, many times it is known as family meal. If I remember correctly, famous chef David Burke even tried to patent a halibut version of this cut, which he sells as a “halibut T-bone” in most of his restaurants.
This past weekend, The Dining Studio hosted five winemakers and Margaret Calvet, a wine negociant from the Bordeaux region of France, and we had hamachi on the menu. After cutting three beautiful sides of the rich and fatty fish, I was left with the hamachi chops. Not wanting to share my chops with the rest of the staff, I quickly secreted the chops away to the cooler for Sunday barbecuing. These chops, or collars, take to grilling perfectly; there is something about charcoal and plum wood-grilled fish skin that makes me drool. Some of the allure of the collar is that the meat surrounding the bone is belly meat, which means it is unctuous and full-flavored. Let me reiterate, it is full-flavored, not sublime or elegant. This is peasant/working man's food meant to be eaten with your hands, not always a selling point to many that may be on the fence about their liking of fish or those not wanting to work at the table to get food to their mouths. But this is why I get excited eating it, full flavors, eating with my hands . . . old school. If your fish is really fresh, there is no better way to eat it than picking it off the bone. The bones and skin help keep the fish moist and protect it from the heat of the grill; plus, crispy, charred skin is delectable when dipping in a little ponzu or spritzed with fresh lemon.
The grilling process is simple: sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill over a medium-hot grill until falling off the bone. Be careful as to not char the skin too much; you want it to be crispy, but it also needs to protect the meat underneath. My hamachi chops took approximately four minutes a side.
I talked with Brian at Coastal Seafoods, and he said that with the amount of halibut they move, they often have chops available. Call ahead for availability.
Wash your hands, tie your bib, and start picking.
The Dining Studio is hosting Rush River Brewing on May 9th, and there are still a few seats available. We will be featuring five beers, passed hors d'oeuvres, and a four-course dinner for $55 plus tax. Call 612-331-3310 for reservations.