To Boil Fish Head
Our second receipt for “They Ate That” was boiled fish head. I found four receipts that looked interesting. Mary Smith, The Complete Housekeeper, had a cod’s head with shoulder, boiled with a simple garnish around it when done. Charles Carter, The Practical Cook, Edward Kidder, Receipts of Pastry and Cookery and Robert Smith, Court Cookery all seemed very similar by using a fagot of herbs, dressing it with various seafood and horseradish, and then garnishes. I decided on “To Boil a Codf Head” by Robert Smith, Court Cookery or The Complete English Cook.
When reading the introduction to Robert Smith’s cookery book, I got the feeling that he had a rather high opinion of himself and was rather insecure. He tells us of all the lofty patrons he serves and of how, when he shared his receipts, they would show up in someone else’s work, and done badly at that. So he wished to publish his cookery book and set the record straight as to what he considered his receipts and how they should be executed. He is not the first person to feel this way, I’m sure. Many early cookbooks were copied almost word for word with little changes. He humbles himself by mentioning that he wanted to omit all extravagancy in using silver scallops-shells and silver skewers, yet “left several valuable ones not unworthy the greatest Prince.”
The cookery book also contains a variety of receipts from friends “to render it more complete.” However, he does not give them credit for any particular receipt. It is possibly the use of lobster and shrimp that makes this fish head worthy of a prince. Our team for the “To Boil a Codf Head” comprised of Vicky, Linda, and Tom. The receipt for the fish seems simple, boil the head, make a sauce and garnish it. However, it is really more complicated than that. There is gravy involved in the sauce, and many steps to put it all together. Our trio cuts onions and starts the garnish and reviews the receipt. While Vickie tends to the simmering fish head and Faith blanches the spinach for the pigeon pear, Ryan, our trusty ALHFAM event planner, snaps pictures. Tom and Vicky remove the fish head and take it to the table. Here it is unwrapped from the cheese cloth and plated. Tom had ready all of the garnishes, lobster, shrimp, parsley, toast points and artfully cut lemons. Linda gets ready to pour on the gravy and the dish is ready to serve. Once again we had many a visitor sampling their wonderful cooking. The fish was cooked perfectly, and the gravy delicious, and the presentation as good as any four-star restaurant. Happy cooking! Sandie