How to put a fried fish

The four boys had caught and released more than 150 smallmouth bass on a three-day float trip down the John Day River. On the last day, we saved 15 who probably would have died if released. That was enough for a dead end meeting as my wife and I introduced our Oregon neighbors to the idea of ​​a fried fish.

In many parts of the country, a fried fish is the conclusion to a successful day of angling. It could be a social gathering when people bring fish and a liter of iced tea. Really, it’s just an excuse for a summer party. With fried fish as a main course, the side dishes are usually made with any seasonal summer vegetables.

In the south, hush puppies, a type of fried cornbread, and coleslaw are pretty much a must.

But this custom has not yet caught on where I live in Oregon, and it may be related to the philosophy of catch-and-release fishing.

In central Oregon, there are several prolific fish species that are not in danger of overexploitation. Always check the regulations, but in some lakes or rivers, there are no catch limits for Crappie, Largemouth Bass, and Bluegill. In other areas, catfish have been stored to provide sport fishing and good eating opportunities. In these cases, wild fish can be eaten without feeling guilty, and there is no easier method to enjoy fishing and feed a lot of people than with a fried fish.

This is how you do it:

Lean fish works best for frying. The general rule of thumb is that white meat fish is lean, while dark or pink meat is oily. Good candidates for a fried fish include sea bass, crappie, catfish, walleye, or bluegill. Large, oily fish, such as salmon or trout, are not the best option for frying, because the end result will tend to be greasy and soggy.

It is possible to fry whole fish clean, but then you need to take care of the bones when dining. The best method is to fillet the largest fish. Once the steak is clean and skinless, cut it into pieces about 1 to 2 inches wide and no thicker than 1½ inches.

Dip the steak in a mixture of milk and egg, then put it in a mixture of flour or cornmeal. If you are using a batter, all you have to do is dip the steak.

I use a cast iron dutch oven in an outdoor propane pot for frying. This removes heat, odor, and oil splashes from the outside. The trick to frying fish is to have very hot oil: 375 to 400 degrees. This is the point where the vegetable oil bubbles if a small amount of batter is poured in. Use a candy thermometer to ensure the correct temperature.

Vegetable oils for frying should have a high burn point. Corn, canola, peanuts, cottonseed, or safflower are popular because they do not change the flavor of the fish.

Usually when fish becomes greasy, it is because the oil has cooled too quickly. Start at about 400 degrees, then when the cold fish touches the hot oil, the breading will form a tasty golden crust. The fish will cool the oil when it goes into the fryer, so keep an eye on your thermometer to maintain constant heat.

Try a piece when the batch is ready. Uncooked fish is clear and watery and does not flake easily with a fork; Overdone fish is dry and tough when tasted. The perfect fish is opaque and moist and flakes easily. You will reach this perfect state by cooking the fish for 3 to 5 minutes or until it floats and is golden brown. Don’t overcrowd the fish or the oil will get too cold.

If cooking multiple batches of fish, allow the oil to reheat to at least 375 degrees before adding the fish.

If the fish and batter are cold and the oil is hot, the coating will seal immediately. Cooked fish will be moist and flaky on the inside, crisp and golden on the outside. Drain the cooked fish on a baking sheet lined with a paper bag.

Serve the fish hot, fresh from the oil, with garnishes. Then sit back, enjoy, and be thankful for the great food and companionship that can come from time spent outdoors.

Here are some recipes to help you get started:

Beer batter

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon of paprika

A pinch of nutmeg

1 cup of beer

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Blend the beer and vegetable oil until smooth. Dip the fish in the batter and fry it.

Basic flour breading

1 egg

1 tablespoon of milk or water

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Blend the egg and milk. Mix flour, salt and pepper. Dip the fish in the egg mixture and then in the flour mixture. Fry.

Cornmeal Breading

1 egg

1 tablespoon of milk or water

1 cup finely ground cornmeal

3 tablespoons Italian flavored breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon of flour

Salt, pepper, paprika, Old Bay seasoning, or Cajun seasoning to taste

Blend the egg and milk. Mix cornmeal, breadcrumbs, flour, and seasonings. Dip the fish in the egg mixture and then in the flour mixture. Fry.

George’s Hush Cubs

Hush puppies are the traditional southern side dish to accompany fried fish. (This recipe was invented by my friend, the late George Halford, one night before a fish fry in the Washington, DC area.)

2 cups of cornmeal

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 eggs

1/4 cup canola oil in batter

1/4 cup honey

5 green onions, finely chopped

1 cup buttermilk

4 teaspoons baking powder

A pinch of garlic salt

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, egg, cornmeal, garlic salt, honey, green onions, and buttermilk, stir well with a spoon. Add the baking powder. Heat the oil to 400 degrees in a large Dutch oven. Spoon batter into hot, cold oil until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Fried Sweet Corn

6 fresh white sweet corn cobs (yellow sweet corn can be used, but it won’t be as tasty)

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and clean the corn. Using a very sharp knife, cut the corn tips into a baking dish. Then use the back of the knife to scrape and milk the cob, letting the juices run into the pan. Pour the corn into a large bowl and add salt and pepper to taste. Heat a skillet over medium heat and pour in the butter. When the butter melts, put the corn and juices in a skillet. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes until the corn is soft, creamy, and hot.

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