Strawberry Grouper
Grouper [golden hind (fb), Cephalopholis aurantia | strawberry hind (fb), Cephalopholis spiloparaea]

Fishbase ascribes "strawberry grouper" to C. spiloparaea but the photo specimen is a half inch longer than that fish gets. Consequently I'm assigning "Strawberry Grouper" to both these nearly identical fish. Both are Indo Pacific fish found from Mozambique (C. Spiloparaea only) to French Polynesia. Both are deep water reef fish of similar habit. C. spiloparaea can grow to 12 inches and C. aurantia to 23 inches, but the photo specimen was 12-1/2 inches and weighed 1.4 pounds.

The flesh of this grouper is very white and delicate in flavor. Fillets hold together well enough for poaching if handled gently and they flake apart very easily on the plate. It is easy to bone completely and an ideal fish for the most delicate sauces.

Grouper is called for in many cookbook recipes and its characteristics make it desirable for upscale restaurants so it is often expensive.

Scales:   This fish is covered with moderate sized but hard and tightly adhering scales that take some energy to scrape off, and they fly all about as you do so. They are particularly a problem at the edges and you may need to pick some off with long nose pliers or shave them off with the sharp edge of your prep knife.

Cleaning:   This isn't the easiest fish to clean as there are a lot of tough membranes inside. You'll want to cut the gill arches loose with your kitchen shears because they pull very hard.

Fillet:   This is not a difficult fish to fillet, but dive sharply under the collar because there's quite a bit of flesh there. When you get down to the rib cage it's easiest to cut the ribs from the backbone and pull them from the fillet. There are some long sharp centerline spines for the length of the body cavity you should pull out with your long nose pliers. Pull straight forward as usual.

Yield:   A 1 pound 7 ounce fish yielded 10 ounces of skin-off fillet (43%).

Skin:   The skin shrinks a lot when cooked so must be removed. Fortunately it's a relatively easy fish to skin using the usual long knife and cutting board Method.

Stock:   This is an excellent fish for stock. There will still be quite a bit of flesh on the head and the bottom of the collar which is difficult to recover due to the bones. Stock made from the head, fins and bones is mild and quite usable, but the pigments in the fish color it slightly. For details see our Fish Stock page.

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