Before we get to this month’s recipes, let’s look at the basic kitchen tools you’ll need to get fish fillets from the fish, to the table and ready to eat. Basic is the operative word here. In my research for this column I found that there are about as many tools as there are fishing lures.
If you don’t believe it, try searching online for fillet knives, for instance. A fillet knife gets your job started. Their blades usually range from seven to nine inches long in a ridged or folding design; both of which require your muscle power to do the carving. The easiest filleters are electric plug-in units and their cordless cousin. Being proficient with the knives involve a learning process. The rigid or folding type is more forgiving to the beginner while the latter is faster, but it takes practice to become efficient. I suggest to learn with a cordless knife if you plan to filet a large number of fish. I still use a vintage wooden handled Rapala from the early 1970s because I’m more of CPR angler (catch-photo-release).
Once you have your fillets free of the carcass, you need a bowl to hold them until ready for seasoning and frying. There are no special bowls needed unless you plan to marinate; then you need a glass bowl. Another bowl, nothing special, is needed for mixing dry ingredients. Measuring spoons and cups are required for meeting-out dry and wet ingredients.
A stirrer, be it a spoon, a whisk or a clean stick is needed to swirl ingredients together. You can find a variety of these online.
Now for a brainier consideration, your cooking tool. An iron skillet or a Dutch oven make excellent stovetop frying implements. Each can hold enough oil to cover your fillets. My favorite is a deep-fat fryer designed for outdoor cooking. I have a Cajun Fryer fueled by propane. Its design prevents burning the oil and saving it in a reservoir for many future uses. You can get Cajun Fryers to hold one basket or several. Fry your fish and then fry potatoes or onion rings quickly with very little oil being absorbed. Check out https://cajunfryer.com and other deep-fat fryers online to find the one that suits your need.
A deep fat thermometer is almost a necessity to cook your fillets properly. A Non-contact Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun lets you check your oil’s temp and stay clean. The deep fat thermometer stays in the oil while you cook. It has an instant read dial to clip to your skillet. You can purchase either type for less than $20.
To harvest your fried fillets from a skillet or Dutch oven, you’ll need a skimmer, slotted spoon, tongs or other tool to place on paper towels to drain on a platter or serving dish. Once you get the fish to the table it’s time to eat Cola-n-beer Fried Crappie.
1-pound fish fillets
3 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons oregano
1-1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
1-1/2 tablespoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1-1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper to taste
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Orange or lemon-lime cola
1 cup beer
Add the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix and then blend in enough cola to make your batter. Dip fillets in beer and then coat fish completely with batter. Heat 2-3 inches of canola oil to 375 degrees in a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven. For Extras: Follow up by frying sliced and seasoned potatoes and/or green tomatoes. Serve with lemon wedges, tartar sauce, hot sauce. Save some cold beer for dessert.
TIP: Switch to metal measuring cups and spoons. Plastic warps over time, making them less precise.
POTATO AND CRAPPIE CHOWDER
4 cups raw crappie fillets, chunked
4 cups shredded potatoes
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 to 2 cans evaporated milk
1/4 cup melted butter
Cook crappie and potatoes in a pan covered with enough water so it will come to a boil. Sauté the celery and onion until tender and drain. Combine all ingredient into one large Dutch oven or pot. Now add cream of mushroom soup, evaporated milk and butter. Simmer together until hot. Do not boil or milk will curdle. You can top this soup with crumbled bacon and shredded cheese. This crappie chowder soup tastes splendid with a green salad and fresh bread.