Last week I filleted my very first fish, this poor rainbow trout. My rookie fishmongering skills and tentative knife strokes did him no favours. But last week I also filleted my second fish, and that turned out to be, well I wouldn’t call it a success, but the results were much better and it filled me with pride…and a delicious meal. It’s all thanks to Hooked (888 Queen Street East), a fish store in Leslieville that offers a Fishmongering 101 Class.
The class is $60 per person, which for a hands-on cooking class in Toronto is definitely on the reasonable end. They offer a variety of other seafood-related classes too, and after taking this one I’ve got my eye on Oysters 101, Shellfish & Mollusks, and Soupe a la Poisson (The class schedule can be found here). The lessons take place at the back of the store along the long wooden bar.
All gear and equipment is provided, and lucky for me that included a bowl of homemade fish chowder filled with oysters, clams, mussels, halibut and sablefish when the class starts. There’s also an apron to don, a fish knife and fish bone tweezers.
Our instructor Kristin was the former executive chef at Dish Cooking Studio and extremely knowledgeable, friendly and peppered the lesson with lots of humourous anecdotes, including the fact that she’s likely to pass out at the sight of blood. Thankfully there was no fainting, and she taught us how choose a fresh fish, store it and then demonstrated how to fillet two different types.
Then it was our turn to fillet two extremely fresh rainbow trout, harvested just the day before. It takes a lot of precision and strange hand co-ordination to cut into the fish, use the right amount of pressure while cutting along the bone, then use the tweezers to pull out the pin bones. Midway through filleting my first one I thought: “There is no way I’d ever do this again voluntarily” and said a special thanks to those fishmongers who fillet the fish I buy. But when I tackled the second trout, my technique had already improved and my internal voice was saying something like: “This ain’t so bad, I think I can do this.” Sure there was still lots of waste on the bone and I accidentally cut through some of the rib bones, but I was beaming like a proud parent at my finished fillets.
Then came the fun part of the night, it was time to consume the fillets of our labour. Kristin taught us the recipe for a Dill-Riesling Sauce and then we breaded and pan-fried our fish under her watchful eyes.
My trout was plated with a puree of parsley root, celery root and potato, then topped with micro greens and a drizzle sauce. It was the perfect end to the night since I could now appreciate how much work goes into each fillet.
The class was scheduled from 7-9 pm but ran about an hour late, which I truthfully didn’t even notice. The cost of the class also includes a discount of 15% off everything in the store that evening. We also left with a take-home bag of another fillet plus breading and sauce so we can replicate the meal at home.
Even if cooking classes aren’t your thing, I think Hooked is an awesome fish store and definitely worth a visit. Everyone that works there has a chef/restaurant background so they’ll happily help you choose the best seafood and have plenty of suggestions on how to cook it. They also focus on seafood that’s sustainable, ethical and fresh, and there’s plenty of other goodies like oysters, locally grown vegetables, homemade tartar sauce and chowders. And now if I’m ever stuck in the wilderness with only a fish knife, tweezers and an already cleaned and gutted trout, I know I’ll be all set to fillet my third fish.
Hooked / 888 Queen St. East, Toronto
416 828 1861 / Hours: Mon 12-7, Tues-Fri 11-7, Sat 9-6, Sun 12-5