Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Old School" Crispy, Crunchy Fish A New Way

Look at that beautifully browned, crispy, crunchy fish in the picture.  Perhaps you have never learned to love fish, or even like it.  Many people don't like fish because it is "too fishy."  Our family has always loved fish and it makes such a nice alternative to meals of chicken, beef or pork.  It has been one of my favorites since childhood.  It was always very exciting when my Aunt Molly would call and invite us to her house for a fish fry.  My uncle Jim would catch lots of bass, bluegill, or catfish and they would have a big ol' fish fry.  My aunt would make potato salad and hushpuppies to go with the fish!  And for dessert, she would always make lemon meringue pie - one of my all time favorites!!!  Do you have fond memories like that from your childhood?  It's funny how food is attached to so many childhood memories.

When I was growing up,  members of the Catholic Church did not eat meat on Fridays as a day of sacrifice.  At school, we would have grilled cheese sandwiches, or fish for lunch since many of the students attended Catholic Church.  Lots of the kids did not like fish, but that was just fine with me because I loved it.  My mom would often make fried cod fillet sandwiches for dinner on the weekend.  Fried cod is so good.  And salmon patties are one of my favorites to this day!  I even liked tuna casserole.  Catfish, bass, crappie, grouper, roughy, shrimp, clams, lobster, crab - all good in my book.  Oysters on the other hand have never been one of my favorites.  Guess everybody has something they don't like right?

My best friend in the neighborhood where I grew up was from a Catholic family.  She would often ask me to spend the night on Friday night.  It always made me happy, because I knew there would be fish for dinner (even though she did not like fish).  She always complained, but I was a happy camper.   Another fond memory for me.

I had a bunch of tilapia in the freezer and I decided that was what we would have for dinner tonight.  It just sounded good to me.  Something different and oh so tasty!  I have fixed fish many different ways, but I am "old school" and love some crispy, crunchy fish.  You know, the kind rolled in corn meal. I am not a big fan of the doughy coating on fish that you get at a lot of restaurants.  I want crunch, so this is what I did.

First, I thawed the fish.  Then, I set up my breading station.  I have lots of Corning Ware that is 42 years old.  I have been using it ever since we got married.  We received it for wedding gifts and it's still going strong after all these years.  Its the kind with the blue cornflower on the side that you see in vintage stores now.  Yes, I guess it is vintage. Sigh   Oh, I am digressing again.  Here is what you need for your breading station.
These are one quart casseroles and in the first one I put one cup of flour.  In the second, one cup of yellow corn meal.  In the third casserole, I beat up 2 eggs with a fork.  Now, I will share the secret ingredient.  

It's Old Bay Seasoning.  Shhhhh, don't tell.  If you want some truly delicious, flavorful, crunchy fish, here is how you do it.

Add one tablespoon of Old Bay Seasoning to the flour and to the corn meal.  Mix it in with a whisk or fork.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each dish and some fresh cracked black pepper.  Mix again.  Now, take a piece of the fish and place each side in the flour first.  The flour keeps the fish dry and helps hold the egg and cornmeal on the fish so that the fish will get nice and crisp.  Next, dip each side of the piece of fish in the egg and then each side in the cornmeal.  

Here is another secret to making the fish a little healthier by not using so much oil frying it.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Lay each piece you "bread" on the sheet.  Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  When you have finished all the fish pieces, place the baking sheet in the oven for at least 20 minutes or until the breading starts getting brown.  When the fish "flakes"when pierced with a fork, remove it from the oven.  You can serve it this way or you can add one more step.

This is where my "old school" ways come in.  I added a little vegetable oil to my electric skillet and let it heat up good and hot at 350 degrees.  I took all the fish pieces off the baking sheet and cooked them on each side for just a bit until the breading got really brown and crispy.  This helps eliminate using a lot of oil to fry the fish and still gives you that nice crispy, crunchy fish that is sooooooo good.

Serve with cocktail sauce or tarter sauce, or some nice lemon wedges and you have one delicious meal.  Because you cooked it in the oven, it is not greasy in any way which makes it a lot healthier.  This fish would also be excellent to use in fish tacos - another one of my favorites.  As a matter of fact, that is what I will do with the left overs tomorrow!  

I hope you will give this recipe a try the next time you are craving some nice crispy, crunchy fish.  It's quick and easy and is such a wonderful change up for dinner.  Let me know if you try this recipe.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

"In the hands of an able cook, fish can become an inexhaustible source of perpetual delight."
Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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