Wintertime in Michigan means one thing to me, ice fishing! It's a great time to get out on the ice, have some fun, and catch the best eating fish of the year. Although we have had an early spring this year and can no longer get out on the ice. We still have the cold water that produces the firmest and best tasting fillets you can get. I'm not saying you won't get great tasting fish the rest of the year, but they are prime under the ice. Also there's no extra worry about keeping them cold after the catch, since they are already on ice.
We are lucky here in Michigan to have a ton of options for harvesting great tasting fish. Bluegills, perch, crappies, walleyes, pike, whitefish, and burbot all work great for this recipe. Burbot are definitely the best tasting on that list, but the hardest to find. My most used in this recipe are perch and bluegills. That being said you can also use store bought fish with this recipe, just be sure to use a white fleshed fish. Cod is easily found and is excellent fried.
Correctly cleaning, storing, and prepping your fish is extremely important to have great tasting fish. Once I've filleted my fish, I always give them at least 3 good rinses in cold water. This helps to rinse away blood, scales, and oils from the fillets. From there I put them in freezer bags and freeze in water, you won't get any freezer burn this way. After you have thawed them make sure to give them another good rinse or two. Again make sure it is cold water, one common theme with fish is keep them as cold as you possibly can. It will keep them from ever getting mushy.
2 tablespoons Reel 'n Smoke Seasoning
1 12 ounce Lake Brothers Lager
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon salt
Oil (peanut preferred)
First thing is first get that oil hot! I load my deep fryer with peanut oil and crank it up to its max setting at the 375. One tip I learned the hard way is never use an extension cord with a deep fryer, you won't get the heat up all the way and your fish will turn out mushy. My deep fryer beeps when it's ready, but if you happen to be pan frying or using a simple deep fryer you'll need to test the oil. Wet your hand and shake a couple of drops of water into the oil, if it really pops and crackles after hitting the oil you are ready to fry!
While the oil is heating mix the flour, Reel n Smoke, salt, paprika, egg, and Lake Brothers.
Remove the fish from the refrigerator, where they've been kept cold. Give them a rinse if you haven't already and drain the water off. If I am using large fillets like walleyes or whitefish I might pat them dry with a paper towel (and also cut them into smaller chunks). Smaller fillets go right into the batter as long as they aren't too wet. Remove from the batter and dunk them in the hot oil. When they float the fish is done inside, but you want to keep them going awhile so the batter gets crispy. Cooking time is typically 3-5 minutes depending on how much was added to the fryer.
This is where it starts to get fun! Take the fish out of the basket or pan and place on a cookie sheet or bowl covered in paper towel. This will help to soak up some of the excess grease. A good cook wouldn't serve their guests without sampling some at this point. Typically if I am doing the frying, I've eaten my fill before I actually serve the fish. I always encourage everyone to get some samples too, it is best immediately after being taken out of the oil.
These are going to taste amazing on their own. But it never hurts to mix it up with some sauce, you really can use anything your taste buds prefer. However tarter sauce is the go to for fish, although a mixture of sriracha sauce and ketchup is my favorite. Keep some lemon wedges handy for anyone who wants a splash of lemon on their fish. As for sides I like to keep it pretty simple with salads, French fries, or potato salad.
When choosing a beer to go with this recipe I wanted something that would encompass the whole process. I wanted a good, refreshing, and easy drinking Michigan beer. Something that everyone would enjoy and appreciate, a well done and full flavored lager was the natural choice. I found what I was looking for in Lake Brothers Lager and I think not only does the beer itself fit this recipe, but their slogan "HonestBeer, Honest Folk". There is just something pure about a fish fry that just matches up perfectly with this, and the Great Lakes theme is an added bonus. It also fits in well in the ice shanty!