Paul McKibben explains how to make the parish fish fry main dish in your own kitchen.
In my part of the country — southwestern Ohio — the parish fish fry is a major part of Lent.
Fried cod, macaroni and cheese, green beans, coleslaw, and desserts prepared by volunteers in a Catholic school cafeteria is what is on the menu for dinner during Lenten Fridays. For those who cannot wait for dinner to get their fried fish, there is always the Filet-o-Fish sandwich at McDonald’s that was invented by a McDonald’s franchisee owner in Cincinnati in the early 1960s.
The parish fish fry is a form of almsgiving. Volunteers cook, serve, and clean. Parishioners purchase the modestly-priced dinners. After the meal, many parishes offer Stations of the Cross, a Lenten talk, and confessions over in their churches. It’s a wonderful way to observe the season in community.
This year, because of the pandemic, many parishes are only offering drive-thru service for the dinner.
Often in my household, we’ll do our own parish fish fry. And I must admit my deep-fried cod rivals that of any parish cook! It’s so good my wife was upset that I told her I was going to be writing an article for CatholicMom.com and sharing the recipe! This family secret is no more!
But here’s another secret: Each time I make my fried cod, the recipe changes. In fact, there is no recipe. With that in mind, feel free to adapt the following recipe any way you so choose. That’s the fun part of cooking savory dishes — tinkering with flavors.
I often serve the fried cod with green beans, macaroni and cheese, and clam chowder. Those are the same staples you’ll find at the parish fish fry down the street.
Paul’s Fried Cod
Serves 4 to 6 people.
4 cups of vegetable oil or canola oil for frying
36 ounces of cod, cut into 3- to 4-ounce pieces
2 eggs, beaten
splash of milk
1 cup flour or store-bought seasoned flour (We prefer Kentucky Kernel brand.)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon seasoned salt
Completely thaw cod overnight, if using frozen fish. Cut into 3- to 4-ounce pieces. Set aside.
Prepare egg wash in a bowl. Prepare breading mixture in a separate bowl.
Place oil into a coated cast iron pan or use a deep fryer. Make sure the oil is hot. If you stick a wooden spoon into the oil and see bubbles around the spoon, it’s hot enough for cooking.
Coat fish in egg wash. Then coat with breading.
Fry until golden brown. The exterior should be crispy. The fish should be flaky on the inside. Serve with tartar sauce, ketchup, or rémoulade sauce for dipping.
A word of caution: I recently used an air fryer for frying fish and I did not get the same crispy texture that you want to achieve.
Copyright 2021 Paul McKibben
Images copyright 2021 Paul McKibben. All rights reserved.
Author photo copyright 2018 Lisa Julia Photography/Bayard Inc.
About the author: Paul McKibben is the former managing editor of Catholic Digest and a freelance journalist based in Cincinnati.
About the Author
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