Today’s Tasty Tuesday post is all about frying fish, with a bonus shrimp recipe thrown in for good measure. There are a couple of things you should know going into today’s recipe.
The first is that I don’t fry much of anything. I’ve never had very good success with frying, no matter what it is. I don’t know why but it’s been a consistent thing for me since I was in 4-H way back in high school. For a pitch-in dinner I decided to make fried chicken like my mom and grandmom made. Boy did it look pretty, all glistening and golden brown. I took it to the dinner, feeling pretty good about my contribution, until the first bite revealed it wasn’t done inside. Talk about embarrassed and upset! That was my first ever attempt at frying, and it hasn’t gotten much better with age and experience.
When I made the schedule of recipes to try, I deliberately added this one to see if a different approach would help me make a decent dish. I even chose the simplest batter recipes rather than breading and such, figuring it would be easy and still yummy. But again I was wrong.
I’ll get into why after we look at the specific recipe that Hannah Glasse recommends:
To Dress Fish
Observe always in the frying of any sort of fish: first, that you dry your fish very well in a clean cloth, then do your fish in this manner: beat up the yolks of two or three eggs, according to your quantity of fish; take a small pastry brush and put the egg on, shake some crumbs of bread and flour mixt over the fish, and then fry it. Let the stew-pan you fry them in be very nice and clean, and put in as much beef dripping, or hog’s lard, as will almost cover your fish: and be sure it boils before you put in your fish. Let it fry quick, and let it be of a fine light brown, but not too dark a colour. Have your fish-slice ready, and if there is occasion turn it: when it is enough, take it up, and lay a coarse cloth on a dish on which lay your fish, to drain all the grease from it….
Some love fish in batter; then you must beat an egg fine, and dip your fish in just as you are going to put it in the pan; or as good a batter as any, is a little ale and flour beat up, just as you are ready for it, and dip the fish, to fry it.
Sounds simple enough, right? Really, it does. Only for me it has remained out of my abilities to pull off. In order to better understand what was expected, I delved into my ever handy Joy of Cooking cookbook to see how they recommended frying fish. After all, Ms. Glasse left a few things rather vague in her recipe. Like, what exactly is a fish-slice anyway? And how much beef/hog fat is required, or rather what is a present day substitute?
A fish slice is essentially what I know as a spatula, which is what I used to lift and drain off most of the grease before placing it on a plate to serve. As for the cooking fat, the cookbook recommended using a mix of cooking oil and butter, especially for thicker/larger fish fillets. My catfish fillets were of good size, so I did add a tablespoon or so of butter to the pan, but it’s not required apparently.
Now, another thing you should consider is that I have never been fond of the taste of catfish. So that may be playing into my less than enthusiastic response to this endeavor. But the man at the seafood/fish counter said it was the best for frying that he had fresh, so I went with it. I hoped that cooking it differently might help me like it.
As I mentioned, I decided to try the batter techniques instead of breading. She didn’t say it, but I think adding some seasoning to the batter would make the fish taste better. I may be wrong about that though! Do follow her directions to whip the ale and flour together just as you’re ready to dip your fish because the flour settles out quickly! (Lesson learned, that!)
Another thing I figured out is that I probably should have cut up the fillets into smaller slices to make it easier and quicker to fry them brown and done. Like I said, this is not something I normally do. Perhaps I should have sought out guidance from several friends I know who are better cooks than I am before attempting this one. Another lesson learned, right?
Here’s what I ended up with as a recipe:
Betty’s Fried Fish
Egg batter: 1 egg, beaten, seasoned to taste
Beer batter: ½ cup flour (seasoned); enough beer/ale to make a light batter.
Fish fillets, cut into manageable pieces
Heat cooking oil in a heavy skillet, enough to half cover your fillets.
When the oil is hot, dip fillets in desired batter and add to pan. Let fry until bottom half is light brown and turn over to cook the other side. This usually only takes a few minutes per side, but watch for the fish to be “enough.”
Remove fish to paper towel lined plate or platter, depending on quantity being cooked, to absorb the grease from the fillets. (Note: You may want to transfer the fillets to a serving dish and keep it warm and covered if you’re cooking a larger quantity of fish than the two fillets I did.)
The other recipe I made to accompany the fish was some shrimp sauce. It’s a really easy recipe but it needed some tweaking too. Here’s Mrs. Glasse’s recipe:
Take half a pint of shrimps, wash them very clean, put them in a stew-pan with a spoonful of fish-lear, or anchovy-liquor, a pound of butter melted thick, boil it up for five minutes, and squeeze in half a lemon; toss it up, and then put it in your cups or boats.
Now, half a pint of shrimp and one pound of butter? I could almost hear my arteries hardening. I’ve made shrimp many times, usually steaming it but sometimes sautéing it in a stir-fry dish. I also felt like it needed a bit of spice to perk up the flavors. I did not use the fish sauce she recommends, mainly because I have developed an aversion to the smell of it let alone the taste. So here’s what I went with, and it did make a nice accompaniment to the fish:
Betty’s Shrimp Sauce
½ lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 T Old Bay seasoning
Splash of lemon juice
Melt butter in small sauce pan.
Add olive oil and seasoning, stirring to combine.
Add shrimp and sauté until shrimp are pink.
Add lemon juice and heat through before serving.
I’m thinking the next time I want some fried fish, I’ll head to a restaurant. Hubby and I agreed we didn’t much enjoy the results of my attempt so the fish won’t be repeated in my kitchen. The shrimp sauce more likely will be, since it’s easy and fairly healthy, too. So tell me if you enjoy fried fish and if so do you prepare it for yourself? Or head to the nearest seafood house like me?
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