Fish and chips a Lenten classic

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.

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.

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.