Battered cod always reminds me of two things: (1) Lenten fish fries; and (2) my Grandma. I went to Catholic school growing up and like just about every other Catholic church, during Lent ours held a fish fry every Friday. Most parents volunteered, and my parents were among them. In grade school us kids would mill about, running around and playing in the gym, while our parents spent their Friday evenings making and serving food. And without fail, we would all return home smelling like fried fish. My Grandma absolutely adored battered cod sandwiches (which I could never understand as a kid – my seafood palate didn’t extend beyond fish sticks, which for some reason I loved). Anytime we went out to eat somewhere like Eat n’ Park or Kings (local chains), she always ordered a fried cod sandwich. Needless to say, it was her menu item of choice when it came to ordering from the local fish fry and will always remind me of her. Over last couple of years, my Chief Culinary Consultant and I have enjoyed some beer battered seafood while eating both locally and at the beach. I thought that Lent would be the perfect time to try my hand at it at home, so I bought a gorgeous piece of cod and we set about battering and frying it on Ash Wednesday.
I was pleased with how relatively quick and easy it was to make – the longest part was waiting for the oil to heat up in the pot! The batter has a lot of flavor thanks to the beer and a generous amount of seasoning, which complements the fish really well. We ate our cod with tartar sauce and French fries, but I would also love to try it on a hoagie roll with pickles and tartar sauce to mimic that quintessential fish fry sandwich.
This is definitely filed away under “never thought it would be so easy to make this at home!” Just make sure you have some candles to light – your kitchen will smell like fried fish! For me, it’s worth it to be able to make things like this at home, especially after my mom volunteered at the church fish fry last year and came home with some horror stories about the bulk packaged psuedo-food that they were using; a vast difference to how they did things when she volunteered some 20 to 25 years ago when we were in grade school. Such a shame, but I’m thrilled to be able to do it on my own now!
Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt, cayenne, paprika, and black pepper in a large mixing bowl; transfer ¾ cup of mixture to a rimmed baking sheet. Add baking powder to the bowl and whisk to combine.
In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, thoroughly dry the fish with paper towels and dredge each piece in the flour mixture on the baking sheet; transfer the pieces to a wire rack, shaking off excess flour. Add 1¼ cups of beer to the flour mixture in the mixing bowl and stir until the mixture is just combined (the batter will be lumpy). Add the remaining beer as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition, until the batter falls from the whisk in a thin, steady stream and leaves a faint trail across the surface of the batter. Using tons, dip 1 piece of fish in the batter and let the excess run off, shaking gently. Place the battered fish back onto the baking sheet with the flour mixture and turn to coat both sides. Repeat with the remaining fish, keeping the pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet.
When the oil reaches 375 degrees, increase the heat to high and add the battered fish to the oil with tongs, gently shaking off any excess flour. Fry, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the fish to a thick paper bag or paper towels to drain. Serve with your favorite French fries.