If I had to pick one food item that I enjoy cooking the most it would be fish. You can cook fish so many ways - grilled, fried, smoked, steamed....even raw in sushi. There are so many different kinds of fish too; salmon, cod, walleye, tilapia, tuna, grouper, catfish, trout, flounder and the list goes on. The best rule that I've learned about cooking fish is to not get in the way of the filet. Just do a simple preparation, cook it and let the filet do the work.
If you're going to serve fish to guests that are picky give this a try. Soak the fish in 2% milk for half an hour to one hour. Milk will help absorb the odor from the fish. Another trick is to fry some thin slices of garlic in the pan before you fry your fish. The garlic will release its flavor into the oil will be absorbed by the fish while it is cooked.
I've worked on a beer batter recipe on and off for several years now. When I first started out it was too thick and the filets ended up with almost a donut layer of batter. I kept trying to add more beer to thin it out but then it just ended up runny and wouldn't stick to the fish. The whole idea of a beer batter is to have a light and crispy batter that covers the filet. So I decided to use baking powder. I also folded in one beaten egg and a healthy amount of garlic powder. Garlic always does a great job of counter acting any real or imagined odor from the filets. For the final step, I allowed the batter to sit for a few hours so that all of the dry ingredients could absorb moisture and let the baking powder do its job. I now let my batter sit for 2 to 4 hours before frying.
When I'm mixing beer batter, try to get the consistency of runny pancake batter. This seems to give it just enough weight without being too heavy and doughy. If you would like the filets to have a slightly thicker coating, toss the filets in flour before you pull them through the beer batter. The dry surface of the flour allows more of the batter to adhere to the filet. If you're going for a thin and crispy coating, skip the flour and just pat the filets with a paper towel, then pull them through the batter. Since the filets don't have the dry surface from the flour, not as much batter sticks to the filet and the coating ends up almost translucent.
If you can fry your filets whole I think that this is best. Thinner filets are a good idea as well I generally try not to fry filets that are more the 3/4 of an inch thick. If the filet is too thick you have to let it fry for a long time and then the batter gets to dark and loses that nice light crisp quality.
You can easily change things up and use this recipe for fish tacos. Here's where I would cut the filet into thin strips about the width of two fingers then fry the strips just a little longer then you normally would. Now you have some great pieces of fish to assemble your fish tacos with.
I've also included my Accidental Tartar Sauce recipe. I was cooking fish one day and didn't have all the ingredients for traditional tartar sauce so I just used what I had. It turned out so good, that's all I make now.
So let's get started.....
Old Fashioned Fish Fry
4 lbs. of white fish (cod, walleye, perch, tilapia are good choices)
Frying oil - peanut or canola
1 cup unbleached flour
1 tbsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. chili powder or paprika
1 tsp. double acting baking powder
1 egg beaten
One 12 oz. bottle of brown or amber beer
Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add beaten egg to dry mixture then gradually add beer to batter until it reaches the desired consistency. Generally you should have about a 1/2 inch of beer left in the bottle when the batter has been thoroughly incorporated. The finished batter should be a little thinner then pancake batter to fry up light and crispy. Place the batter in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.
Be sure to setup your frying station ahead of time, you should go from dry to wet to frying to rack in that order.
Pour oil into pan and heat to 350 degrees. To test the oil, add a couple drops of batter to the oil. If the batter sinks and then floats back to the surface, the oil is heated properly.
Line a rimmed cookie sheet with a few layers of newspaper and then place a rack on top.
If you prefer your filets to have a slightly thicker layer of batter, dredge the filet in flour before they are pulled through the beer batter.
If you prefer your fish filet to have a thin and crispy layer of batter, pat the filets with a paper towel and then pull them through the beer batter.
Fry the fish filets for 3 to 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the filet. Do not crowd the pan. If too many filets are added it will drop the temperature of the oil extending the frying time.
Remove the cooked filets from the frying pan and place them on the prepared rack to drain off the excess oil. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on the filets before serving.
***Accidental Tartar Sauce***
1/2 cup thousand island salad dressing
1 to 2 tbsp dill pickle relish plus some juice
Juice from half a fresh lemon
Combine all ingredients in a small serving bowl.