Sunday, March 27, 2011

Recipe: Homemade Fish Nuggets

The other night, I had taken some fresh Haddock out of the freezer for dinner and my wife asked me if I'd make homemade fish and chips.  I don't like doing it often because a) neither of us need the added fat in our diets and; b) It seems no matter what type of contraption I use, the whole house smells like a greasy spoon for two weeks after that (we have a very open floor plan so even the sofa picks-up the odor).  However, we hadn't had a fry night in a long time so I decided to just go ahead with it.

Now before you start passing judgment on me for whipping out the fry-o-lator (FryDaddy, actually), I want to point out a couple of things:
  • Fried foods are a special treat in our home.  I fire-up the vat of grease maybe once or twice a year--four times at the most.
  • Making your own fried food is inherently healthier than restaurant fried foods.  Not only do you control the ingredients in the food itself, but you can make sure the temperature of the oil stays hot enough such that the least amount of residual oil ends-up in the food and you can drain the food properly.
  • Homemade fried fish beats out the bake-and-serve supermarket equivalent ten fold because the ingredients amount to 3 or 4 items as opposed to the laundry list on the back of your box of Weaver fish sticks.  Plus, you get to control the quality and source of your fish.
  • You can also control the oil that goes into the fryer.  Mario Batali actually recommends frying in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.  While that's a pricey way to go, it is a way to reduce the guilt, keep the 'ole cholesterol in check, and  add some unique flavor.
  • Instead of "Fish 'n Chips," you can serve these with a nice green salad.  Again, a dose of moderation and a lot less guilt.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's get down to cooking.

1) Heat your oil of choice to between 359-375 degrees.  A cooking thermometer would be great here or an electric fryer that can be set to a specific temperature.  My trusty FryDaddy only heats to one temp and it cost me ten bucks at a thrift store.  Also, set your oven to 250 degrees and prep a baking sheet with a cookie/cake cooling rack on it.

2) Choose a healthy white fish to use (or a nice oily Omega-3 fish if you want something unique and tasty).  We like Haddock because it has a meatier flavor than Cod and is readily available around here but Tilapia and Grouper work quite well too, as does halibut and even fresh-water white fish.  Remove the skin if it's on and cut into 1 to 2 inch chunks.  We do nuggets because they fit in a narrow frying vessel easier and you can be sure they're cooked through.

3) In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 12-oz can or bottle of beer.  You can use anything but a dark beer.  Well, you can probably use dark beer but it'll make for a strong flavored crust.  If you prefer not to use beer, soda water or plain seltzer would work--you really need the bubbles for the crispiest crust.  Add a little extra water if necessary to thin the batter or extra flour if it needs to be thicker.  You're looking for a little thinner than pancake batter.

You'll notice that my recipe doesn't include eggs as most do.  I've tried eggs and it tastes great until you've got all of the fish ready and you sit down to eat it.  By the time it gets to the table, everything is soggy.  I found that if I leave the eggs out, it stays crispy longer.

4) Dump the fish chunks into the batter and give 'em a sitr.  Using your fingers or tongs, gently pull each chunk of fish out of the batter, blot off the excess batter on the side of the bowl, and drop it gently into the hot oil.  Put in just enough pieces so they're in a single layer and won't stick.  Using a wire spider or a metal or wood slotted spoon, stir them around so they don't stick.  Turn each when they're golden brown on the bottom.

5) Once each piece is dark golden brown on each side, remove them using a spider, the basket that came with your fryer, or a metal slotted spoon.  Place each directly onto the cookie drying rack and place the rack in the oven to keep them warm.

6) Repeat until you've cooked all the fish and serve warm with homemade tartar sauce or plain 'ole ketchup.

Incidentally, this batter is fantastic for chicken nuggets, shrimp, onion rings, and fried zucchini sticks.  Just sayin...  :-)


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