image courtesy David Ascher

Random Fish Facts

Posted by A69143a5 tiny Jen Messier on dec 26, 2011 under Blog Post

I was going to write a post about the wonders of cream of tartar, but for some reason I couldn't find it in the index of Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, so I just started looking up random things about fish. I hate fish, but they're totally interesting. 

With that, I present you with a hastily put together recapitulation of my favorite fish facts from today:

Really fresh fish smells like plants! How come? Both have unsaturated fatty molecules that get broken down into smaller bits that produce similar smells to one another, like fresh grass, geraniums, and mushrooms. Yep. I tried to find more details about exactly how this works online, but I just keep finding people who think the weed they're growing smells like fish. 

Why is salmon pink? Woah, for some reason it never occured to me that salmon have crazy looking flesh. They get it from eating crustaceans, who have been eating algae that contain beta-carotene, the same compound that makes your carrots orange. 

Sometimes bottom feeders taste muddy. They get this unflattering flavor from two different chemicals found in the algae in the water. One of these chemicals, geosmin, dissolves when there's acid around, so one way to help get rid of the muddy taste is to cook the fish with lemon juice or vinegar. If you want to experiment, try out this vintage Vinegar Carp recipe from The New York Times. Geosmin is also the compound that makes beets taste "earthy," according to Wikipedia. It also happens that humans are particularly sensitive to its odor, so there you go.  

More to come!

Tagged with cooking chemistry on food and cooking fish

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