CARP STEAK [A word in support of the much-maligned carp]
Greetings from Big River country where we eat carp and we like it. "Carp fries" are still a common fundraiser around here. I've helped fry anywhere up to 400 pounds of fish in
one shot many times.
Which fish you choose and where they come from will be have a direct effect on the quality of table fare. "Slough carp” (what we call fish from warm, shallow muddy water) are beyond poor as table fare. Fish from relatively cool, running water or fresh lakes are excellent. I have never
seen a "worm" in a carp.
How you handle the fish from the time you catch it until you eat it is a big factor. If you'd like to try it - here's a quick rundown.
First - stay with the females. They will be a thicker, deeper fish and the males tend to be long and skinny. If you fillet a fish and it is mostly all red meat - you probably have a male. Some guys eat them, but I personally steer clear, they tend to be stronger. A good fish to 'steak' is around 4 to not over 10 pounds.
Take a live fish - give it a quick whack on the head and cut the tail off. This will bleed the fish and make for better (whiter) meat. Takes just a couple minutes to bleed out.
"Scaling" the fish is a little tricky but easy to get onto with some practice. Slide the point of your knife forward between scales and skin. You are in reality “cutting” the scales off. With practice you can take pretty much the whole side off in one chunk. Then fillet the fish like any
Now, it gets a little tricky again. You are going to "score" the carp. A fillet knife will work but a boning or butcher knife is better. Make vertical slices down though the meat and bone to the skin. You will feel the knife cutting through bone. Make sure you get clear to the skin without going through. If you cut clear through a few times don't worry about it. You just want the chunks to hang together. You want these cuts to be not more than a quarter inch apart. Less is more here. Cut the scored fillets into chunks about four inches wide. Now wash it well and soak it in saltwater, in the fridge, overnight. I usually change the water on it at least once.
If you get along well with this method, you can also try cutting the skin off as you would any other fish. Then score from the former skin side down. This results in a very “clean: steak but does require a more delicate touch. I suggest you try the other method first.
A carp lends itself well to the “seasoned” breadings but I often just use flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper. The act of “breading” is another important factor. Divide each slice of the meat and make sure you get the breading down in there. Shake off the excess.
Deep fry at 350-375 and enjoy. If you did a good job of scoring the bones will "fry up" and be gone. Now, I'm not going to tell you it tastes like bluegill or walleye – but what does? If you like to 'dip' - tartar sauce or a mix of Miracle Whip and horseradish are good.
Try it - bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Gene lives with his wife, three bird dogs and a pitiful pile of broken shotguns and fishing poles on the banks of the Iowa River. He lives now where he grew up, six miles from the Mississippi in SE Iowa. Over the past half-century he has fished in, fallen in or been thrown into nearly all waters in the U.S. and a couple of foreign countries.