Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ominous Fish Fry

As of this rambling, my daughters and I have caught and released 10,762 panfish in the waters of Lake Massabesic. 10,762 missed opportunities for a fish fry of American, super-sized portions. But now, the time for release has passed - starting tomorrow, we are on the hunt to fill the freezer. Hibbies, White Perch, and Pumpkinseeds - you are hereby placed on notice. You will be gracing our table.
In the sporting spirit, I have given you, the prey, fair warning. In the spirit of criminal mastermind-ship, I shall now share my plan: You will be drawn in from your dark hidey-holes by the delicious smell of specially-grown trout worms, culled fresh from the compost pile out back. The worms are kept chilled so they wiggle like the dickens when they hit the water, sending vibrations through your feeding grounds like Nancy Sinatra stomping out her go-go boots on a bayou dock.
The rig is simple- a number 6 or 8 hook, a pinch-weight, and a bobber. You can expect the worm to be dancing at eye-level or a bit above. It won't do much good to have it below the line of sight, for as a fish, you won't be able to see it. Take a bite - just like yourself, it's delicious. The hook will be set from a short-strike, and you will be reeled into the waiting hands of an excited 5-year-old.
Less than the length of my hand, and you will go straight into the bucket to be scaled, beheaded, and fried at a later time. If longer, expect to be bled, with a sharp knife drawn behind your gill-plate. If I am motivated, you will be filleted there and then on the boat. For a meal large enough to satify 6 folks, expect a minimum of 20 or more of your brothers and sisters to be joining you.
There are two ways you might be prepared. If smaller than my hand, you will be scaled from the tail forward, and your head will be removed and disposed of. Your cavity wil be excavated with my forefinger. You will then be washed in cold water and set aside to be fried as is.
However, should you be larger, you will be filleted. Either way, I can't imagine the experience for you will be pleasant. Once prepared, you will be soaked in a cold-water and lemon juice bath for at least 30 seconds, then shaken to release any trapped water that might cause the hot oil to spit and sputter. You will be placed in a shake bag with fish-fry batter, shaken again, and lowered into a frying pan of vegetable oil for some serious browning. I would guess at a temperature of 350 degrees or so. I need to resist the temptation to flip you more than once, as you tend to fall apart if handled too much. Once browned, out you will come to take center-stage on our plates, accompanied by a potato-dish of our fancy, fried pickles, sweet tea and tartar sauce. I take this time now to thank you.

For those of the more linear thinking, below I have translated the above oddity into a standardized recipe index:

Fried Fish (for 6)
20 panfish filleted or be-headed and gutted
lemon juice/cold water
vegetable oil
batter shake
salt
pepper

Soak fish in cold water and lemon juice for at least 30 secs. Longer won't hurt 'em. Heat oil in a good-sized frying pan to 350 degrees, hot enough for water to spatter when 'flicked' in. Place your batter mix in a brown paper bag, and toss in 3-4 prepared fish/fillets. Shake. Place battered fish in oil, turn only once, after maybe 2-3 mins when browned. Remove from oil when fully browned. Drain on paper towels. Salt and pepper to taste.

Batter Shake
3 cups of flour
1/4 cup corn meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika

There are plenty of pre-made batter mixes in the supermarket, and generally I tend to use those. But if in a pinch, here's a simple recipe for your own. Mix all ingredients and place in a brown paper bag for shakin'.

Fried Pickles
1-2 cups of chosen pickle slices
vegetable oil
batter shake
salt
pepper

Batter 'em and fry 'em like above. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm.

Potato Salad
3 lbs potatoes
2 tsp mustard powder
4 or more stalks of celery, chopped
1 tsp dried dill weed
1/2 cup Hellman's
2 tsp malt vinegar
2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
1 tsp paprika
Salt/Pepper/Garlic Powder

Boil the potatoes with skins on until gently tender. Peel roughly, if desired, but I recomend leaving the skins on. Cube 'em up. Sprinkle with dry mustard and toss lightly. Cool in the fridge for a while, maybe 30 minutes. Thin out the mayo with the vinegar, then add to potatoes. Add the remaining ingredients and toss. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.

Tartar Sauce
1 cup Mayonaise
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
1 Tbsp minced onion
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all up and serve cold.