Whitefish are often smoked but are also an important fresh fish in the Frozen North, particularly in Russia, Alaska, Canada and the U.S. Great Lakes region. The roe is valued as a pretty good caviar.
Whitefish flesh is is very mild and breaks up easily into medium size flakes. The skin side of the fillet is darker, particularly along the center, and slightly stronger in flavor but still mild. Fillets hold together well enough for poaching. Use a fairly delicate saucing to avoid overwhelming the fish.
I've been assured by a person with Native Alaskan experience that whitefish is good in chowders but best eaten as frozen chunks dipped in Seal Oil. Unfortunately, seal oil's pretty scarce in Southern California.
This fish is completely covered with shiny, medium size scales that scrape off quite easily. Filleting is not difficult, but there are not enough fin rays nor are they long enough to guide you from the top of the fish to the backbone, so you'll just have to pay attention. Be gentle with the filleting because the flesh is tender and tends to break apart with rough handling. As you get to the backbone you'll have to break through a substantial row of centerline spines.
The rib cage is very long with lots of ribs and is pretty easy to follow. Start by freeing the top and the tail end, then shave the fillet from the ribs starting at the back. You could also just use kitchen shears to cut the ribs from the backbone. They pull easily and cleanly from the soft flesh of the fillet. In either case, also pull the centerline spines, straight forward as usual. They're easy to feel out in this fish and they pull easily and cleanly.
Yield is pretty decent. A 19-3/4 inch 2.5 pound (factory cleaned) fish yielded 1.7 pounds of skin-on fillet and 1.5 pounds skinless (60%). Of course it won't be quite that good for a fish that hasn't been factory cleaned. Skin shrink is quite moderate and relaxes with cooking so fillets can be fried skin-on. Whitefish makes a light very serviceable stock for soup, but with quite a bit of oil - use your gravy separator to remove it.
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