I live in Wisconsin. That means three things: I cheer for the Packers, I enjoy cheese, and on Fridays we “go out for a fish fry”. Fish fries are extremely common in Wisconsin, owing to the predominantly German heritage that settled in this region. The Roman Catholic religion practiced heavily by the settling Germans forbade the eating of most meat products on Fridays during Lent; since we have so many lakes, fish became the meal of choice. German settlers were also extremely socially oriented (hence the prevalence of community taverns in this state), thus the gatherings for fried fish on Fridays began to spill over outside of Lent. Today, it’s synonymous with Friday night across the state, so much so that national chain restaurants offer specials on Friday for fish within our borders.
The problem is, once you have toddlers, dining out becomes as difficult as brushing an ornery cat in a tumble dryer. We’ve had a serious fish deficiency for the last few weeks, so on Friday afternoon as I was coming home, I called the wife and let her know I was going to be picking up cod and cooking dinner. A true Wisconsin Friday night dinner. A beer-battered fish fry.
I hit upon this recipe several years ago, and I’ve tweaked it enough that I’m confident it’s on par – if not better than- the best fry I’ve had here. It’s simple, quick, and most importantly, delicious. We don’t have a deep fryer in the Nested Kitchen, so when I need to deep fry something (which isn’t often) I use a large pot and vegetable oil.
Beer-Battered Fish Fry
1 can Wisconsin beer
1 1/2 lb white fish (Atlantic Cod), cut into 4 ounce pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
Heat your oil to 350. Mix the beer and the flour to make your batter. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Batter the fish, then dredge in the bread crumbs. Carefully drop into oil. Using a slotted spoon, turn twice while cooking, about 5 minutes. Remove from oil and place on a plate covered with paper towel or on a wire rack while cooking the remaining pieces of fish.
If you’re not going to be serving the fish immediately, or if you have to do more than 3 batches, place the finished fish on a rack in an oven set to the lowest temperature possible. This will keep the fish warm without drying it out or allowing it to sit and pool in oil. Just be sure to place some sort of pan to catch any dripping oil, or else the inside of your oven will be a mess.
If you wanted a match a tavern fish fry you’d want to serve with a side of fries, cole slaw and rye bread. The nice thing about cooking for yourself, however, is the freedom to choose. I chose to instead serve with a salad of veggies from our CSA and some fried calamari, using the same batter, but finishing with flour instead of panko crumbs.
I also made a homemade tartar sauce to go with the fish, and an aioli for the calamari. Both use mayonnaise, so this meal is ultimately a good cheat for anyone counting calories. Sometimes, however, the best catharsis comes from simply eating well.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 Tbsp sweet relish
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine and stir.