Growing up in a Catholic family meant that the beginning of Spring was all about Lent. At some point everyone would have ashes on their foreheads, there was a portion that included palm fronds, and then there were Friday afternoons working in the church kitchen stirring large batches of cole slaw, dredging strips of fish for frying and being bossed around by the not-priest church boss Barbara. She makes the best potato salad… she’s supposed to be bossing the Friday Fish Fry.
In my experience, Friday Fish Frys are best enjoyed off of a paper plate, at a folding table with older church ladies most of whom are mistaking you 2for your sister… and you just go along with it… keeping one eye on the dessert table for the dwindling portions of the Sweet Potato Pie. That’s how you know it’s Lent. And it’s a good thing you gave up chocolate and not french fries.
Let’s fish and fry!
I used cod for our Friday Fish Fry. It’s a solid white fish that maintains its moisture and flakes when bitten into.
Set up three dredging bowls. This is the path to success.
- All-purpose flour with salt and pepper.
- Cornstarch, baking powder, creole seasoning, flour, milk, and sparkling water. A wet batter.
- Panko bread crumbs, for golden crispness.
Here’s the gravy train. That must be what Catholics call it, right?
Fish pieces are lightly coated in flour, dipped into the wet batter, and covered in panko.
Well coated fishy fish bites.
It’s time for frying… and we’re talking deep-fat frying. About 2 good inches of oil is heated to 375 degrees F. Fish is fried for 2 minutes on each side. Enough to be made golden and irresistible.
I served our Friday Fish Fry with homemade sweet and sour vinegar cole slaw from this simple recipe, here. Add extra carrots, less sugar, and purple onions. It’s simple and satisfying. Also, french fries… shoestring, baked from frozen because we have no shame in our game, and topped liberally with garlic butter, also no shame in that game.
Friday is on the horizon and it’s looking mighty delicious.
Friday Fish Fry
- Prep Time: 30
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 50 minutes
For the Fish
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup 2% milk
- 1/3 cup lemon sparkling water
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 1 1/2 pounds cod fillet, cut into 2-inch chunks
- canola oil for deep frying
For the Cole Slaw Dressing
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon celery seeds
For the Slaw
- 1 large head green cabbage (about 3 1/2 pounds), finely shredded by hand
- 2 large carrots, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
- 1 medium purple onion, finely sliced by hand
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
For the Fries
- 1 bag frozen shoestring French Fries
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
- To make the fish, you’ll need three shallow bowls.
- In one shallow bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, baking powder, salt, Creole seasoning, and 1/2 cup flour. Stir in milk and sparkling water until smooth.
- In another small bowl, whisk together remaining 1 cup flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper.
- In the final shallow bowl, add breadcrumbs.
- Heat about 4 cup canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Use a fry thermometer to bring the oil to 375 degrees F.
- To prepare the fish, first toss in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Dip in the batter, shaking off any excess. Finally, cover in panko and place on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.
- Fry the fish in batches, cooking for 2-3 minutes on each side.
- Return to wire rack to cool slightly and drain.
- To make the cole slaw, for the dressing, whisk together vinegar, sugar, oil, garlic, black pepper, and celery seeds in small bowl. Microwave for 45 seconds and whisk again, dissolving the sugar.
- For the slaw, toss together the cabbage, carrot, and onion in a large bowl. Sprinkle with remaining sugar and salt and toss to combine. Let stand five minutes, then transfer to a large colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water.
- Transfer vegetables to a salad spinner and spin dry. Alternatively, transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet lined with a triple layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and blot mixture dry with more towels. Return to large bowl.
- Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to coat. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt, pepper. Chill until ready to serve.
- To make the fries, cook the fries in the oven according to the package directions. While the fries bake, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the salt and parsley and remove from heat. Drizzle butter and garlic mixture over the baked fries to your desired butteryness. Serve warm.
- Serving Size: 4
Made this tonight and my family loved it. My fish portions were probably too thick (after frying, the internal temp was only in the 80’s) so I popped them in the oven with the fries for 10 minutes at 425º and it was perfect! So if anyone has the same issue, I’d recommend trying that.
LOL- the non-priest church boss lady Barbara… love it. There’s one at every parish.
I wanted to try this.
I took my boys to 2 fish frys this Lent. Love the tradition! We always have sides of pierogi and haluski (cabbage and noodles).
I love your mom’s comments on your blog.
Looks great what about not fry but bake .? Thanks
Omg THANK YOU.
-Signed a Kentuckian living in the fish fry desert of Philadelphia.
So much of that sounds familiar, though we only had to worry about fish on Friday for Good Friday (thanks, Vatican II). Our church wasn’t good at community dinners, probably because my mother didn’t take an interested in CWL until well after she retired – she would have changed that, if she had. Your fish fry would have kept us out of the fish ‘n’ chips joint, for sure.
I’d gladly have a meatless Friday for this! And I’m not even Catholic :) Looks soooo delicious!
Arthur in the Garden!
I’m very curious about some of these ingredients. Since cooking is basically chemistry, I’m wondering, Why add the cornstarch & baking powder to the wet bowl – what do they do? And why the sparkling water? What does it accomplish that the other ingredients lack? Without these ingredients, the recipe is much like the one I grew up with. Thank you.
the baking powder adds a lightness and fluff to the batter as it fries. sparkling water also adds lightness. it’s all about aerating the batter.
This looks so dang good. I’m coming to your city next week and can’t wait to eat my way around town!
Love fried fish, we use a deep fryer at home because we just love deep fried anything. No shame in that game either! I usually make this with a yeast batter for a real thick crust, definitely a must-try!
Come and visit Wisconsin- fish fry every Fryday! Sometimes Wednesday’s too. Only thing missing is a slice of rye bread and butter.
you’re right about the bread and butter!
I had no idea you were Catholic. I gave up soda (Diet Coke) for Lent. I am glad I didn’t give up fried foods though. That fish looks so very good. We have a lot of fish fries here in Virginia, I will have to make yours and see how it stands up.