(Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book, 1884)
Boiling is the most insipid and wasteful way of cooking fish. To make boiled fish palatable, a rich sauce, like lobster, oyster, or shrimp sauce, is needed for all kinds except salmon and blue-fish. Salmon is so much richer and more oily than other fish that boiling does not injure it. Hollandaise and sauce piquante are appropriate for salmon. A fish kettle with a drainer for lifting out the fish is quite essential. Or you may put a small piece of fish in a wire basket or on a plate; tie the plate in a square of cloth, and lift cloth, plate, and fish together. Never try to boil a fish whole, as nothing can be more unsightly than the head of a boiled fish. Clean the fish thoroughly, and remove the head, tail, and skin. Rub well with salt and lemon juice. Fish should be of uniform thickness, to boil nicely. A small salmon or the middle cut of a large one, or the thickest part of cod or blue-fish, or a thick piece of halibut, should be selected for boiling. Cod, haddock, and cusk, unless perfectly fresh, will break in boiling.
If fish be put into cold water, the juices are drawn out into the water. If cooked in rapidly boiling water, the fish breaks on the outside before the middle is done. The best and most economical way is to cook it in a steamer over boiling water. If that is not convenient, put the fish into boiling salted water, and simmer till done. Fish is cooked when the flesh separates easily from the bones, and should be taken up immediately, and well drained before serving. A very good way of boiling fish is to steep it for five minutes in strongly salted boiling water, with one or two tablespoonfuls of lemon juice, then plunge it into fresh boiling water without salt, and simmer till done. Less scum rises in the fresh water, and the fish looks whiter. Allow about six minutes to a pound for boiling; more if in a cubical form than for a thin narrow piece of the same weight.
Serve boiled fish on a folded napkin, and the sauce in a sauce-boat. Parisienne potatoes boiled or fried and piled like cannon balls, alternating with parsley and button mushrooms; or sliced pickles, fried oysters, Saratoga potatoes, slices of lemon, or hard-boiled eggs may be used as a garnish. If the fish break and look unsightly, remove the bones, and flake it; pile it lightly on a platter, and pour the sauce over the fish.
To boil Fish au Court Bouillon
Fish are improved by cooking in water flavored with vegetables and spices. Mince one onion, one stalk of celery, and two or three sprigs of parsley. Fry them in a little butter; add two tablespoonfuls of salt, six peppercorns, a bay leaf, three cloves, two quarts of boiling wafer, and one pint of vinegar or sour wine. Boil fifteen minutes, skim well, strain, and keep to use in boiling fish. Rub the fish with salt and lemon juice, and put it into the boiling liquor, and simmer till the flesh separates from the bone.