To Boil a Turbot

In season all the year



A fine turbot, in fall season, and well served, is one of the most delicate and delicious fish that can be sent to table; but it is generally an expensive dish, and its excellence so much depends on the manner in which it is dressed, that great care should be taken to prepare it properly. After it is emptied, wash the inside until it is perfectly cleansed, and rub lightly a little fine salt over the outside, as this will render less washing and handling necessary, by at once taking off the slime; change the water several times, and when the fish is as clean as it is possible to render it, draw a sharp knife through the thickest part of the middle of the back nearly through to the bone.* Never cut off the fins of a turbot when preparing it for table, and remember that it is the dark side of the fish in which the incision is to be made, to prevent the skin of the white side from cracking Dissolve in a well-cleaned turbot or common fish-kettle, in as much cold spring water as will cover the fish abundantly, salt, in the proportion of four ounces to the gallon; wipe the fish-plate with a clean cloth, lay the turbot upon it with the white side upwards, place it in the kettle, bring it slowly to boil, and clear off the scum thoroughly as it rises. Let the water only just simmer until the fish is done, then lift it out, drain, and slide it gently on to a very hot dish, with a hot napkin neatly arranged over the drainer. Send it immediately to table with rich lobster sauce and good plain melted butter. For a simple dinner, anchovy or shrimp sauce is sometimes served with a small turbot. Should there be any cracks in the skin of the fish, branches of curled parsley may be laid lightly over them, or part of the inside coral of a lobster, rubbed through a fine hair-sieve, may be sprinkled over the fish; but it is better without either, when it is very white and unbroken. When garnishings are in favour, a slice of lemon and a tuft of curled parsley, may be placed alternately round the edge of the dish. A border of fried smelts or of fillets of soles, was formerly served round a turbot, and is always a very admissible addition, though no longer so fashionable as it was. From fifteen to twenty minutes will boil a moderate-sized fish, and from twenty to thirty a large one; but as the same time will not always be sufficient for a fish of the same weight, the cook must watch it attentively, and lift it out as soon as its appearance denotes its being done.

Moderate sized turbot, 15 to 20 minutes. Large, 20 to 30 minutes. Longer, if of unusual size.

Obs.—A lemon gently squeezed, and rubbed over the fish, is thought to preserve its whiteness. Some good cooks still put turbot into boiling water, and to prevent its breaking, tie it with a cloth tightly to the fish-plate.

* This is the common practice even of the best or oks, but is very unscientific nevertheless. When the incision is made really into the flesh the turbot should be cooked altogether on Liebeg’s plan, for which see ‘The Beat Mode of Boiling Fish.’ in the preceding pages.