In all processes of cooking that which appears the simplest is generally the most neglected, or at best but carelessly done. Many persons, unacquainted with the subject, would imagine that the boiling of fish is so simple, that it merely requires to be put on the fire in a saucepan full of water, and let simmer or boil until it has lost its transparency, to be fit to eat. To those who are careless and extravagant, this process may answer very well; they know no better, and do not care to improve; but to the carefal housewife, who wishes to make every penny go as far as possible, by retaining in every article of food she cooks the flavour and succulence it possesses (which is, in fact, the basis of economical and perfect cookery, no matter how simple it may be), the following simple receipt, if carefully followed, will greatly assist:—
First of all, let us remember that all large fish, with the skin whole, must be placed on the fire in cold water; if crimped, or cut in slices or pieces, in boiling water; if whole, it must not be covered with more than two or three inches of water, or the skin will crack, and not only spoil the appearance of the fish, but will diminish the gelatine and gluten it contains, and instead of eating firm and full of flavour, it will be soft and woolly, especially if overboiled.
For all kinds of fish, to every quart of water put two teaspoonfuls of salt; and if the fish be whole, as soon as it begins to boil, remove the cover on one side, and let simmer gently till quite done, calculating the time according to the size and quality, which vary so much, that it would be quite impossible to say, “Take a cod, turbot, or salmon, or any other fish weighing so many pounds, and boil so long;” for according to its quality, the process of cooking will act upon it, and therefore in all the following receipts we must make use of the word about with regard to time, but by all means do it rather over than under. If large fish, I generally try it by gently pushing a wooden skewer through the thickest part; if it goes in easily, it is done.