I hate to see wild game and fish wasted. Lately, I have seen people throw away the skeleton away after filleting fish. There is a lot of meat left on those bones. If you want to salvage the meat left on a carcass, here are some easy tips to save that meat and a quick and easy recipe to make use of it.
Salvage Meat from the Skeleton
I salvage the meat from fish skeletons in three different ways:
- Roll the skeleton in cornmeal and fry
- Smoke the carcass
- Microwave the carcass
If I’m frying fish anyway, I simply roll the skeletons in cornmeal and fry them with the rest of the fish, then pick out all that golden, crispy deliciousness.
When smoking fish, I smoke the skeletons along with the fillets. Just remember to pull them out early or they will get too dry and start picking out that smokey goodness while you wait.
If I have only one or two larger fish, I use the microwave to cook the meat off the carcass. We don’t use the microwave for much except to heat water. But fish actually cook very well in the microwave. Basically, they steam in their own juice, like poaching, but none of the flavor is washed away. If cooking a whole fish this way, the skin will be a gooey sticky mess, but the flesh can be cooked to perfection. Luckily, when salvaging meat from the skeleton, the skin is not an issue.
How to Salvage Meat from a Fish Skeleton in a Microwave Oven
The skeleton in the in the photo came from a 16 inch rainbow trout (A). The headless skeleton was about 14½ inches to end of tail (blue lid is 12½ inches. I suggest using a microwave safe bowl with a lid, so fish doesn’t splatter all over the microwave. I usually include the head to get the cheek and neck meat, but I gave this one to the cat. Cook on 70%-100% power depending on how powerful your microwave is and give the fish 60 – 90 seconds and then test it. If the fish starts to splatter, lower the power.
The goal here is to cook the fish so it separates easily from the carcass, but not so much the ribs and other small bones start to separate from the rest of the carcass. After the first 60 – 90 seconds, check to see if the meat can easily be picked off the bone (Photo B & C). If not, give it another 30 seconds. My fish was ready in three minutes.
It only took about two minutes to pick the meat off the bone, which measured exactly 4 ounces. What to do with 4 ounces of poached fish? I can think of many things, but since almost everyone knows how to make tuna salad from a can, how about trout salad?
Trout Salad Recipe
- Remove trout meat from carcass, 3 – 6 oz, but depends upon the size of the fish and how well your fillet knife followed the bones.
- Break up fish into smaller pieces in a bowl.
- Dice 1 – 4 dill pickle spears – depending upon how much fish you have – I like pickles, but I want a balance between the pickle and fish. Homemade pickles are best (easy pickle recipe), because we are food snobs. No really, homemade pickles without Polysorbate 80 and artificial color taste better to me. I promise my grandmother didn’t use any of that stuff in her pickle recipe and she loved us.
- Add mayonnaise to taste (2 – 4 tablespoons) – depending upon how much fish you have. Use common sense, don’t make it too dry or too wet. You can always add more, but you can’t take it back out. Use homemade mayo if you want to make it special. Yes, we are food snobs, but fresh, homemade mayo really does taste better without emulsifiers and artificial flavors and it is simple to make. We learned to make mayo (how to make mayonnaise) in an emergency and never bought mayo again.
- Mix well and add salt and pepper to taste. Now go get the bread, crackers or chips. Let’s eat.
When my wife makes tuna, chicken, turkey or trout salad, she takes more time and adds chopped celery and red onion that I leave out. I like it the way she makes it, but I don’t take the time. My “batchin it” version is very simple and quick. It takes only 2 – 3 minutes to cook the fish, another minute or two to pull the fish off the bone. Include another minute or two to dice up pickles and mix in the mayo and you will be eating a very special fish salad in about 5 minutes (Photo D), all from fish that some would have thrown away.