A strange title for a post, I know. 😉
An Invertebrate is an animal without a backbone, hence Spineless. Now we all know that Mackerel, like all fish have bones. Now, to serve a fish without bones means filleting it, removing the meat from the spine then carefully extracting the bones. But what if we could serve it in its (almost) natural shape, but without the bones? :biggrin:
Of course, this isn´t a new idea. In fact I got the idea from Heston Blumenthal´s (perhaps the biggest ever) cookbook, The Big Fat Duck Cookbook.
In his book Heston includes his recipe for Sardine on Toast Sorbet. It wasn’t the Sorbet that got my attention, it was the marinated Mackerel that he served with it.
Following through the instructions was pretty easy. Basically you get the fresh fish, fillet it, marinade it for a short while then stick it back together again.
Sounds easy right?
Well, in order to “stick it back together” Heston used Transglutaminase. (What? I hear you ask…).
Transglutaminase or TG is manufactured by Ajinomoto and sold as “Activa”. The company Ajinomoto is usually associated with its manufacturing of MSG as well as other ingredients for the food processing sector.
TG is not something new. Companies have been using it for ages. Think Surimi (Crab Sticks), Chicken Nuggets or Fish Balls.
To cut a long story short, TG is an enzyme that is found in animals and some plants. In its manufactured state it allows us to “bind” proteins together, hence its nickname “Meat Glue“.
I had to get me some of this!. :biggrin:
After contacting Ajinomoto directly, their European offices put me in touch with their Spanish distributor, Impex Quimica who are based in Barcelona.
My contact Santiago and I talked on the phone for quite a while. He explained that there were different types of TG that were used in the various food processing sectors. He also carefully explained how the enzyme worked and what possibilities that it had.
Their product is sold by the kilo, and it is not cheap, especially for a small restaurant kitchen. Their core business is with the mass production companies that fill our supermarket shelves.
TG is used to bind together “scraps” of meat, and when the enzyme had bonded the proteins, you are left with nice piece of rolled pork, chicken, beef etc… Like the nickname suggests, it glues the meat together.
I asked him whether they sold TG in more manageable sizes as a kilo would be way too much for my use (plus, once the packet is opened, it has a shelf life of about a month). Santiago told me that his company´s business wasn’t directed at restaurants, but he could possibly help me out someway or another.
Then he said that he would send me some samples to experiment with! I was over the moon with joy! What great service!. 😎
A few days later three packets arrived containing 100g each of the three TG´s that we had discussed. I felt like a kid in a toy shop! :silly:
The first thing that I did was try the “Invertebrate Mackerel”. Our fish was cleaned, filleted then marinated and after following the weight to TG ratio that Santiago had provided me with, I had my first success.
Even if you look closely, you cannot see the where the two fillets have “bonded” in the centre.
With TG, the possibilities for are chef were endless and bound only by imagination.
Like the “kid in the toy shop” child in me, I began to play around and experiment with loads of other ideas.
Buoyed by the success of the boneless fish I tried my hand at “sticking” fish skin on meat.
The reason for this experiment was to see how the TG coped with such a flimsy and delicate piece of Sea Bass skin.
The result was remarkable. (Though not really a joy to eat). :blink:
Tenderloin wrapped in Sea Bass skin.
After the binding was complete (about 5 hours) it was impossible to remove the fish skin from the beef without ripping away chunks of meat. Incredible. 😎
Throughout the next week or so, I spent endless hours thinking up ideas and experimenting with different combinations. I felt busier than a hookers when the ships docked after a 6 month cruise. :sideways:
I even went to the supermarkets to see their cold sections and to test myself in recognising what products used TG. The result was an eye-opener to say the least.
It was during one of my supermarket forays that I noticed the meat medallions wrapped with bacon. To hold the bacon in place, it was tied with string. The meat was probably scraps that had been bonded to look like one piece, the bacon (fat) was there to help prevent it from drying out when being cooked, plus it also added a smokey flavour to the meat.
Back in the kitchen I decided to wrap some fish.
Sea Bass and Bacon.
Again, on inspection you will see that the bacon has fully bonded with the fish.
No strings attached.
After the enzyme has bonded the meat(s) can be treated as usual. It can be frozen, boiled, steamed, fried… whatever way you want to cook it or treat it.
Like I said earlier, the possibilities are endless.
Each of the three 100g TG packets that I received have different uses, and be rest assured, the “kid in the toy shop” has just started to play…. :biggrin: