If you live in the Mahoning Valley, chances are there's a fish fry near you.
During the Lenten season, churches and organizations all over take part in the no-meat Fridays by offering fish specials. The signs are up all over town, and it's hard to resist the offer of a nice fish dinner or sandwich for a good price, and for a good cause.
Last year, I tried several fish specials all over town, trying to find the perfect fish sandwich. I had a couple great catches, and a few that I would rather throw back. Good fish, baked or fried, with the right bun and toppings can be a delight any time of the year.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Sarah Sepanek
Fried fish and chips is a traditional dish to eat during the season of Lent. The fish can be served alone or on a bun, and topped with tartar sauce, malt vinegar, cheese or other toppings.
But if you work nights like me, it's hard to catch the dinner specials. And, if like me, you have fishermen or women in the family, you probably have a freezer full of fish.
My dad and uncle both gave me some walleye filets, scaled, cleaned and vacuum-sealed for freezing. When it came time for my Tribune Cooks, I dug them out of the freezer, and was reminded of how big walleye can be.
The filets were huge. They hung over the side of my biggest plate, so frying them up would be a challenge.
Fish and Chips
3 Russet or other starchy potatoes
Wash potatoes and leave the skins on. Cut lengthwise about 1/4 inch thick. Place cut potatoes in water to avoid oxidation.
In a large skillet or deep-fryer, heat 3 inches of canola oil to 300 degrees over medium-high heat. Thoroughly rinse the potatoes and pat dry. Drop potatoes in the oil and fry until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. They should achieve no color. Remove from oil and drain, rest on paper towel.
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Dash Old Bay Seasoning
1 bottle brown beer, cold
Combine flour, baking powder, seasoning, salt and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour mixture with the beer and whisk to combine. Reserve the remaining flour mixture for dredging the fish.
3 pounds fish, cleaned, filleted and skinned
Reheat oil over medium-high to 375 degrees. Lower the half-cooked chips into the oil. Fry until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on a cooling rack and season with salt to taste. Bring the oil to 400 degrees. Cut the fish into strips 4 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. Dredge fish in the reserved flour mixture, shake off excess, and dip in the batter. Drop the fish strips into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oil, drain on a cooling rack, and season with salt to taste. Serve with tartar sauce or malt vinegar and hot chips.
I found many fish and chip recipes, and settled on a mix of Food Network chef Alton Brown's and another recipe I saw on Buzzfeed. The Buzzfeed recipe required corn starch, which I forgot to buy, but it had Old Bay seasoning, which I am always happy to throw into recipes. Most other recipes for batter followed the same basic structure: flour, baking powder, seasonings, and dark beer. I used Guinness; if it was too dark, I couldn't tell.
The recipe was pretty easy. The potatoes were a cinch; just be careful taking them in and out of the oil. The fish I ended up just frying up whole (I didn't have a sharp enough knife to slice them into smaller filets). Of course, I made a mess with the flour, as I am wont to do.
I used a Fry Daddy deep-fryer, but a skillet will work just as well. As always, when working with hot oil, use proper caution. And keep a few paper towels on hand for splatters.
Be sure not to overcook the fish, but not to undercook it either. My filets were a little thicker than the recipe, so I gave them an extra minute. If they aren't ready when they are removed from the oil, a few minutes in a 400 degree oven will fix it.
The fish came out crispy outside, tender and flaky inside. I cut the mega-filet into quarters, each piece bun-sized. I had one piece with tartar sauce, and another on a bun. There's still plenty more in the freezer, and plenty more options to serve it. The leftover batter can be refrigerated.
Whether it's topped with tartar sauce, vinegar or hot sauce, a good fried fish is delish in any form.