Looking for St. Patrick’s Day Ideas? Just click on “St. Patrick’s Day” in the categories section at right to find my favorites including Salmon on Caraway Cabbage, Irish Soda Bread with Potato Soup, Salmon on Colcannon, Colcannon Soup, Traditional Kerry Apple Cake, and more.
Growing up in the midwest, I knew from local community fried fish and chicken dinners — which were some of the most fun occasions of the year when kids mostly stayed home if they weren’t in school. No video games, but lots of tag and Monkey in the Middle until the sun went down. Local churches and fire stations seemed to have been built from the ground up complete with huge vats perfect for filling with hot oil and satisfying the neighborhood’s penchant for golden-crispy protein. (My own childhood church, First Presbyterian of Homewood, was more likely to ask the men’s group to serve up spaghetti dinners, so we had to go elsewhere for our fried fixes. When it’s not Covid-Tide, they’re lately feeding folks every Monday night so maybe they even sneak in some fish these days; who knows? Stop by and see.) During Lent, the corner bars and local restaurants jumped on the fishy bandwagon and often offered “all you can eat” fish and fries — sometimes until the food ran out. The custom goes on today in the midwest and elsewhere, including Colorado. In fact, even non-believers look forward to spring when there is a fish sandwich if not an “all you can eat” nearly any place you stop for a beer.
In Colorado Springs, get your fried fish at Tony’s Downtown Bar on Tejon or check with Culver’s on North Academy, where we recently scored big hot fried walleye sandwiches. (No beer, though and more’s the pity.)Jump to Recipe
Interestingly, Prohibition might have also played a part in establishing fish frys as a full-on event, transforming a simple dish into a social gathering. According to Wisconsin lore, bars and taverns in the 1920s were faced with a business dilemma after alcohol was declared illegal. Since fish was plentiful, cheap, and pretty easy to cook, many of them started to sell fish dinners to stay afloat, serving them with sides like coleslaw, potato salad, and fries. Some bars even used the fish dinners to disguise speakeasies, taking advantage of the fragrant oil smell.
Soon, fish frys became a regular fixture in the U.S. Churches began to host fish frys as fundraisers and events for their parishes to come together during Lent. After the end of Prohibition, restaurants added their own versions of fish dinners to lure in swaths of Friday pescatarians. In the 1960s, McDonald’s even added the Filet-O-Fish sandwich after one franchise owner in Ohio noticed that his Catholic base was seeking out fish sandwiches elsewhere.Fish Fry History from the Midwest to the Northeast/CHOWHOUND
Making fried fish or fried fish sandwiches at home can be a messy operation and its no wonder folks sought out and still seek out the experts (with big vats of cooking oil someone else occasionally cleans out) to cook their Friday Fish. With the advent of oh-so-easy air fryers (AF), there’s almost nothing to doing it yourself and there is a lot less fat, calories, time, and cleanup involved. It seems as if — but doesn’t taste like — you are eating grilled or baked fish. If you haven’t gotten your sides ready up front, your fish could be done before you’re ready for it; it’s that quick. Knowing this, some sort of a fried fish sandwich has been on my FRIDAY FISH list for a while and searching around, I found lots of AF fish recipes. While I’ve made AF fish a time or two before, I couldn’t remember exactly how I had done it. I did somehow get it right after a few fits and starts and luckily clearly remembered that the big takeaway is to SEASON EACH LAYER OF COATING AS WELL AS THE FISH ITSELF. Either that or you get…plain old fish on the order of old school kids’ fave McDonald’s Fish Fillet. Well, maybe not quite, but leaning that way. A four-pronged approach (3 coatings plus the fish) using a few different spices is the best guarantee for the tastiest crunchiest crispiness your heart desires in a for-real adult fish sandwich:
While I knew I wanted a great fish sandwich to offer both my husband and you, it took me a while to come up with a twist on the basic-basic to make it worth blogging. There are a lot of good, but “duh” fishwiches out there. Living in the southwest often leads me to consider southwest favorites or twists when I’m cooking and this time, I just kept thinking about our much-loved guacamole to top off my golden full of flavor fillet. Then I had to layer it up with crunchy cabbage and the thinnest slice of red onion just for textural contrast, you see. And to set it all off, what about serving the whole deal up on a buttered and grilled fresh soft roll spread with a slick of mayonnaise? Yep, that was it. So skip the ubiquitous tartar sauce and dill pickles this time and…
…chop up a little silky ripe avocado with a few important additions (see above) to make a guacamole topping for what may be your favorite new fish sandwich. (The guac “instructions” are also in the printable recipe.) While I adore the AF, I also include here an oven method or a pan-fried method for those who still haven’t jumped on that low-fat air frying bandwagon. Do think about it if you haven’t yet invested the money and space in an AF yet, will you? In the meantime, try this soon:
guacamole fried fish sandwich (air fryer or oven)
- ½ cup all-purpose, unbleached flour seasoned with ¼ teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water and seasoned with ¼ teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs seasoned with ¼ teaspoon each kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and paprika
- 2 (4-6 ounce) cod fillets, rinsed, patted dry and lightly sprinkled with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, chili powder, and paprika (pat spices into the fish)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil-optional (I recommend it for crispier fish.)
- 2 fresh soft hamburger buns—buttered, grilled, and both halves spread with mayo
- ¼ cup shredded cabbage and two thin slices of red onion
- 1 cup guacamole. Use my recipe in notes or make your own/buy.
- Lemon wedges and potato chips for serving
- PREHEAT AIR FRYER for 10 minutes at 400 F degrees. Spray basket with cooking spray.
- GET COATINGS READY: Meanwhile add flour mixture, egg mixture, and panko mixture to three separate shallow bowls. Make sure each mixture is well-mixed.
- DIP A FILLET on both sides into first the flour, then the egg, and then the panko shaking off after each coating and pressing panko into the fish at the end. Repeat with second fillet. Carefully place fillets into the fryer basket evenly in pan. Drizzle one side of fillets evenly with oil, if using.
- RESET AIR FRYER FOR 10 MINUTES at 400 degrees F. Fry fish for 5 minutes. Gently turn fish over using a fish or thin spatula. Continue to fry another 5 minutes or until crispy and brown. If you’re unsure fish is done, cut into one to make sure it’s flakey and firm. (140 or so degrees F on an instant read thermometer; it’ll come up to 145 F as it rests.)
- FIX BUNS/SERVE HOT: Meanwhile, divide cabbage and onion slices between the bottom halves of the buttered and grilled buns spread with mayo. Add a fish fillet to each and top with about ¼ cup guacamole and the other half of the bun. Serve hot with lemon wedges and potato chips.
CHANGE IT UP/MAKE AHEAD: PANKO: No panko bread crumbs? Try crushed cornflakes, crushed Ritz crackers, or even regular toasted breadcrumbs–which won’t have the same crunch factor, but will work. (Get panko for next time!) SEASONINGS: You can swap in some Old Bay Seasoning for the chili powder if you like or add a few drops of hot sauce in the egg for a spicier bite. The cayenne in the flour just adds flavor and very little heat, but you can skip it if heat’s troublesome and add ground cumin instead. FISH: Any other white fish (haddock, halibut, pollack, grouper) is going to work here. Just make an adjustment for how long the fish is fried if your fillets are larger or smaller than 4-6 ounces. CUTTING CARBS: While this isn’t really the place to cut carbs, a skinny, whole wheat Sandwich Thin like the one Oroweat makes would help a little. Kroger makes a less expensive and less caloric version I like. You could also grill unbreaded fish fillets and still add all the tasty toppings. MAKING AHEAD: Nothing to see here. This needs to be made at the last minute! If by chance —ha— you have any leftover, it’s delicious cold. No kidding. Still, I’d eat it all while it was hot if I were you.
WINE: Probably not! Go with your favorite ice cold beer and pretend you’re up on the lake in Wisconsin with a bucket of brews at the bar. If you must wine and dine, try a Sauvignon Blanc. Or, you might know sparkling wine is a good pairing for any fried salty food. I’d go with an inexpensive Prosecco or Cava or, one of my favorites, Gruet from New Mexico. If you’re ever in Santa Fe or Albuquerque, Gruet has tasting rooms in those places.
WANT AIR FRYER FRIES, TOO? Heat your oven to 200 degrees before making them. After they’re done (and you’ve sampled 1 or 2), keep them warm in the oven while you make the fish fillets.
MORE INFO THAN YOU WANTED:
If you liked this, you might like my FRIDAY FISH: Southwestern Grilled Fish Sandwiches with Green Chile Goat Cheese and Jicama Slaw/MORETIMEATTHETABLE
Quote of the day:
Eat all the junk food you want – as long as you cook it yourself. That way, it’ll be less junky, and you won’t eat it every day because it’s a lot of work. ~ Michael Pollan
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/junk-food-quotes
By the way, these fish sandwiches aren’t a lot of work and they’re pretty healthy with their little bit of fat and heart and tummy-helping avocado topping! (Did you know a cup of avocado has 10 grams of fiber? So long carrots and oatmeal!) But you can think of them as junk food if you like and you didn’t have to run out anywhere to buy one!
LIFE GOES ON:
Living up on the mesa above Interstate 25 and the main north-south rail line in Colorado, we see many interesting things….The other day I saw a train filled with FED EX trailers as far as the eye could see in both directions. That’s our world, friends.
Out of the other side of the house, I watched a neighbor on a skateboard take his dog for a run and so loved it!
As I edit on Sunday, we’ve been in the midst of a more than 24-hour snow storm I’ve enjoyed to the max. (A big pot of Pheasant-Vegetable Soup has been the hit this weekend. I roasted 3 pheasants gifted to us by our friends Lee and Pam Lehmkuhl and then had plenty for stock and soup. Thanks, you guys! ) Now it’s blowing and going, as my Dad would say, and we’re to receive another 2-5 inches before Monday morning. Highways are closed –including the interstate north of here — and we’re being told to stay home. No problem there. Here’s a quiet moment in the storm off to the east:
If you’re seeing spring where you are, enjoy it for us…we’ve a little more winter to go, I think. I know Dave’s laying the fire for tonight. Otherwise, stay warm and make a fish sandwich come Friday.
Thanks for keeping me company in the kitchen and reading along here,