Have you ever dreamed of making fried fish that was so good even an autistic toddler whose diet consists only of cheese hot dogs, cold ramen and frozen pizza would eat it? If so, sharpen your pencil, because I’m going to tell you how to make the best fried fish you’ve ever made (or probably eaten).
If you have six months’ advance warning, you’ll want to grow your own tilapia in a kiddie pool or 50 gallon drum in the back yard. Otherwise, go the the market or store and buy your tilapia.
Once you’ve watched your teenager whack your fish on the head with a blunt object, or had a more responsible pre-adolescent child cut it out of the bag, rinse it off with warm tap water and cut it down the middle so that the filets become asymmetrical parts. Then have your kid dry them vigorously with a paper towel, hand towel, newspaper, or one of the kids’ t-shirts.
For ladies, gay men and yankees, pour yourself a large glass of Pinot Grigio. Everyone else, pour a shot of Patron. I recommend Anejo but the recipe permits some discretion here. Sip through the following steps.
Pour vegetable oil into your deep fryer or pot. Do not succumb to the temptation to reuse oil. This is an excommunicable offense for fish. If the oil looks like sweet tea, you may use it for french fries or fried chicken on a day of the week that ends in Y but starts with a letter other than F. If it looks like the coffee they serve at the Waffle House, put it on Craigslist for free and someone will pick it up.
Let the fish sit for awhile. In a large bowl, have your teenager combine 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of pure, room-temperature water, 1 cup of flour, 5 dashes of Tabasco, 1/8 cup of salt, 1/8 cup of creole seasoning and 1/8 cup of garlic powder. Instruct the pre-adolescent child to read out loud the portions and insist that the teenager repeats the portions as added.
Once the aforementioned ingredients are well-mixed, have the younger child gently pour a room-temperature Miller Genuine Draft or Miller High Life into the bowl, stirring gently. Let it sit.
Next, have your teenager pour flour onto a plate. With a fork, bathe the fish in the flour, then submerge it into the bowl with the batter, then return it to the flour. The use of fingers here is encouraged; massage the flour and batter into the fish. Canonical digits are advised; you will not have to wash as frequently.
At this point you will undoubtedly need a refill on your beverage and you will understand the importance of keeping your forefinger and thumb together. Do not scrimp here; it is the lubricant of this process. It’s absence will ensure bland, flaccid fish that all will flee.
Once two asymmetrical pieces of fish have been sufficiently prepared, have your teenager submerge them into the oil-not dropping them-for five seconds. Then instruct your teenager to use a second fork to push the fish off into the oil. This precise step is vital to ensure your soft, flaky fish doesn’t stick to anything. If the oil is at 365F and you are at approximately 1,000′ elevation, cook the two pieces of fish-a whole filet-for five minutes. I have found that Pavarotti accompanies this process well and adds a special zest.
In the interim, your teenager will have prepared another three filets for submersion in the oil of their redemption.
At the same time, your responsible pre-adolescent is making Dad’s Special Homemade Tartar sauce. Here are the ingredients: 1 cup real Mayo, 1/4 cup dill relish, 1/2 TP salt, 1/2 TP onion powder, 1/4 TP pepper, 1 TP lemon juice. Mix. Chill.
Now the alarm which you set on your smartphone is gently reminding you the fish is ready. Your teenager will remove it from the oil and set it on the interior of the pizza box you saved from Date Night for this very purpose. As the fish relaxes, the cardboard will absorb the extra oil and you were going to throw it away anyway, so now you can engage in polemics with recycling fanatics with authority and confidence. Or, if you burn your trash in the country, you will be assured of delightful little surprises.
The fish will need to sit for a minimum of two minutes. Serve it on another piece of cardboard, or if you must use a proper plate, utilize a paper towel. If you ignore this instruction because you think you know better, you will end up with-you guessed it-flaccid fish, greasy plates and irritable children asking for peanut butter and jelly.
I encourage the consumption of fried okra, corn and/or broccoli with this meal. Yes, french fries commonly accompany fried fish but it’s simply too much for me. Some mothers have been known to serve Macaroni and Cheese as a side. Resist the temptation if possible to distract your children. When they discover this fish-or, they may operate under the assumption it is chicken-they will beg for more.
Pour yourself a congratulatory drink, sit back and enjoy!