Kitchen Knife Skills – Fillet a Fish

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 22,467
    Chef de Cuisine Chris Clime demonstrates some basic knife skills and shows how to fillet a fish.

    Chris Clime

    When you’ve mastered Caesar Salad by the age of nine, where else is there to go but into a culinary career? Christopher Clime followed his destiny, and he now finds himself perched at the top of one of the hottest restaurants in town. As Chef de Cuisine at Acadiana, the newest sister restaurant of the popular DC Coast, TenPenh, and Ceiba restaurants in Washington, Clime brings his version of Louisiana-inspired cuisine to the nation’s capital, which he calls home. And make no mistake: home is an important word to Christopher Clime. Clime had a colorful childhood in northern Virginia and in Puerto Rico, where his father was Commanding Officer at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. No matter where they lived, the Climes were always entertaining – their guests often high-ranking dignitaries – and for the Clime family, entertaining was always a family affair. Graduating at 17, Clime headed straight for Providence, Rhode Island, and Johnson & Wales University. Following his New England training, Clime stayed focused on the South. Post-graduation opportunities were waiting in Charleston, South Carolina, at the very exclusive five-diamond Woodlands Resort, where Clime served as chef de partie, a job he describes as “basically, a jack-of-all-trades.” His six years in Charleston gave him a solid grounding in the techniques, traditions, and flavors of southern cooking. It also brought him to the attention of a major corporation that brings him to Augusta, Georgia as a private chef for its executives and guests at The Masters Golf Tournament, an opportunity he still looks forward to every year, serving lavish banquets often based on Low Country cuisine. But while things were going well and he was receiving rave reviews in Charleston, Christopher Clime’s future suddenly had to be put on hold; his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had him return immediately home to Virgina. Needing a distraction at one point, he brought his application to Jeff Tunks at DC Coast, and was immediately hired as a tournant (“basically, another jack-of-all-trades position, a kind of substitute Sous Chef”), which suited Clime’s schedule well. After a year of constant dedication to his mother’s care, Clime was ready to take on more responsibility. Clime forged ahead at DC Coast and then at TenPenh, which provided a creative outlet for this young man during a trying time in his life. All the while, Tunks and his team were already planning the third jewel in their crown, and Clime was the logical candidate for Chef de Cuisine. Clime’s youth in Puerto Rico had imbued him with an inherent sense of Latin cuisine. Two years later, Tunks and his partners were set to open Acadiana, a fourth restaurant that would draw its inspiration from the rich culinary tradition of southern Louisiana. Tunks had spent four years in New Orleans, and knew just what he wanted the restaurant to be. He also knew just what he was looking for in a Chef de Cuisine, and again tapped Christopher Clime. Clime explains that authentic Louisiana cooking is what they serve at Acadiana, but with a contemporary, urban approach for their Washington clientele. “We peel the shrimp for you, but flavor it with the same delicate combination of Creole seasonings we found again and again in rural Louisiana – paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, and cayenne pepper.” Acadiana is enjoying unprecedented popularity, and already, in November 2006, Christopher Clime has been named one of Washington’s Top Ten Hottest Chefs by DC Style magazine. Has it gone to his head? Not at all: he’s found the ideal balance – his beloved southern cooking, right here at home.

    Chris Klien: Hello, my name is Chris Klien, I am the Chef de Cuisine of Acadiana Restaurant, Washington DC in the heart of the Penn Quarter. What I am going to do some basic knife skills here, but part of the knife skills we do flaying fish. We have over here is Costa Rican Mahi-mahi, which is goldfish as well. You can see the real yellow intense color here and this is the skin part. We flip over to the flay, you want to look for flaying fish and make sure you have a nice firm texture, you see the bright red here, very fresh fish here.

    We are going to go ahead start with the tail. The tail is what you are going to use to actually hold the fish while you are cutting the flay off. We have already cut it off of the bone itself. You need a flay knife. What Id like to do is just go ahead and make a cut right here over the flay, so I can hold the skin without wasting any, and then use this to hold the skin. You can hold the skin as so, some people like to make a hole, but you can do as well to make a little hole in the flay, and then you can put your finger in that to hold the skin as such. I prefer this to hold it.

    So, you can make a hole onto the skin to hold it, if you dont feel very comfortable with the knife. Make sure that you have enough room go ahead and we are going to go and flay it.

    We have cut it off the skin, and now we have the flay. So, we have the skin here. We are going to go ahead, we dont need the skin. We are going to go ahead and get rid of that to the side, and now we can cut into our portions.

    A lot of times with Mahi, you have a blood line here, and what we are going to do is we are going to cut that blood line out. We will go down through here, like a 45 degree angle, and we will cut our flay piece off. Again, down 45 degree angle and that is the blood line. The blood line is going to get very fishy, you dont want to serve that, you dont want to cook with that. So that also with the skin, we are going to put over that to the side as well. Now, you can cut the portions that you want. So, you want to two or three ounce portion, you would have a scale here, so you are at home with the barbeque. You can see that this is probably enough for two portions or three small portions ready to go into a mixed grill or something.

    I always like to cut my on the bias to give more surface area because you have a small flay. So, we are going to go ahead cut this on an extreme bias here, and there we go. You have a bigger flay because of that. You see that bias that we cut it on. Then you have another larger flay, different size and then we repeat and since we have the smaller piece here, we can pair these two together and then go down again, on the bias again and then one more time. Thats how you cut mahi-mahi.