Each week, one Slate staffer or critic will offer up a favorite cultural pick for Procrastinate Better readers. This week’s endorsement is from Farhad Manjoo, Slate ’s technology columnist.
What’s the best way to kill a fish that you intend to eat raw? Let’s start with what not to do: Don’t pull the fish out of the water, bonk it on the head, and filet. That will result in metallic, mealy flesh. Better to hold the fish on the counter, place your knife behind its gills, and quickly sever its spinal cord. Cut off the tail, too. Next, insert a long, thin needle up its spinal cord, delaying rigor mortis. Finally, place the fish in an ice water bath. The fish’s heart will continue to beat, pumping out a stream of blood into the water. When you filet the fish several hours later, it will taste amazing—clean, firm, slightly crunchy, and delicious.
I learned about this method—a Japanese practice known as Ike Jime —on my favorite food blog, Cooking Issues , which ran a three-part series on fish death last year. The site chronicles the exploits of Nils Norén and Dave Arnold, two cooks-cum-mad-food-scientists who teach at New York’s French Culinary Institute. Their approach to food is at once deeply scientific and pleasantly whimsical—imagine Cook’s Illustrated crossed with MythBusters , then throw in a lot of blood.
Last Thanksgiving, Arnold’s quest for the perfect feast ended with the creation of a “bionic turkey”—he deboned the bird and replaced its skeleton with thin aluminum piping, through which he circulated duck fat and butter. (See here , here , here , and here ; beware the many graphic photos of bird dismemberment.) A two - part project, “The Quest for French Fry Supremacy,” led Arnold through dozens of variations before arriving at the perfect spud—which involves soaking your cut potatoes in “a pectolytic and hemicellulolytic enzyme mix.”
It’s unlikely you’ll ever make anything you read about in Cooking Issues. (The authors have unlimited access to expensive equipment and ingredients.) But a certain kind of cook approaches the kitchen as an experiment. If that’s you, you’ll have a lot of fun at Cooking Issues.