Bitches Baking: I Fried Fish & Lived

Several weeks ago Toward the end of March, I went to my Facebook friends and said something along the lines of, “Hey, I’m thinking I want to try fish this weekend. Fried, because all things are easier that way. What would you recommend for a wimp?”

I got a lot of feedback — on fish, on better ways to prepare fish than frying, etc — but it mostly came down to either tilapia or cod. I promptly waffled, panicked, and forgot to actually ever buy fish or the stuff needed to fry it.

Last week, Like, a month ago, my boyfriend was like, “No, seriously, why haven’t you made me fried fish?”1

So, with that reminder and this new thing I’m doing where I revisit foods that I think I don’t like, I set out last weekend last month to fry fish. My anguish can be broken down into three acts, like most things in life.

Part One: Finding Fish

I live in Kansas. There are some awesome things about living in Kansas, including (but not limited to) delicious barbecue, hot summers full of grilling, and the ability to lose all fear when it comes to tornadoes. However, we’re not exactly known for our access to fresh seafood.

All the same, I knew I didn’t want to use frozen fish. So I went to the meat counter at my local Dillons — where I buy two chicken breasts so frequently2 that the usual weekday evening guy is already bagging it before I’ve asked — and stared at my options.

Miles is standing next to me saying, “Mom, are you going to buy fish with the heads on?” There are no fish with heads on here, both me and the young man running the meat counter try to explain. He’s thinking of The Merc, where maybe my fish would have been better, but fuck that. When I know I like something, I’ll pay Community Mercantile prices for it. We’re going “local budget grocery store” for this experiment.3

I stare intently at both tilapia and cod, trying not to be irrationally grossed out by this whole thing. Chicken on the bone grossed me out when I was new to cooking — why is this different? Cod had gotten more votes in my informal Facebook poll, but I eventually pick tilapia because it looks less weird to me.

I also buy two chicken breasts.

Part Two: The Actual Frying Process

I was making this meal on a Saturday at my boyfriend’s apartment while the Royals game was on. We had thought maybe Miles would also enjoy watching baseball, but he was more interested in when I would give him the empty canola oil bottle for a science experiment he wanted to try.

August
This guy also writes. Just sayin’.

For the frying process, I chose canola oil. I had initially debated using peanut oil, as it seems to be the superior frying oil — but the first time ever, I actually couldn’t find any. (And probably would have said, “Ahahahahahah never mind,” when I saw the price, but I was at least open the possibility.) Frying with vegetable oil always grosses me out. There’s something about the flavor or aftertaste that always turns my stomach. I could not tell you why. I used an entire 32 oz bottle of oil, but ended up with most of it left by the end of the day. Maybe half a cup was actually used up in the frying process.

I made a batter instead of using a breading; I think I like meat with breading better overall, but the batter turned out okay. The batter? From Food.com: “Batter for Deep Frying.” I liked that it was described as thin, but damn it, that was not my experience. It was more like pancake batter, so I ended up rubbing it on more than letting it coat the meat. This seemed to work okay.

I had two separate batters in disposable pie tins, and a tin each for chicken and tilapia — look, I was scared that neither Miles nor I would like the fish, so yes, I also fried chicken. I was open about this on Snapchat.

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Also, yes, I snapchatted while frying. Judge me later, Dad, jeez.

I salted and peppered my meats, set a large pan up with my roommate’s borrowed thermometer, and waited for the oil to get to 350. This was the most complicated part, as August’s only large burner overheats inexplicably. I couldn’t set it higher than somewhere between “medium” and “medium-high.” (Or, “4” and “5.”) It fluctuated back and forth.

Overall, the frying was uneventful. Nothing burned — self-included — and all of meat cooked through, a thing that always worries me when I fry stuff. I did the chicken first because I wanted the fish to be more freshly fried when I tried it. All-in-all, I’d call it a successful frying session.

I’d also baked fries, which were okay-to-mediocre, and garlic bread. I almost burned the garlic bread. My ability to burn garlic bread is basically a tradition at this point. We celebrate when I don’t burn the garlic bread.

Welcome to dinner.

I like salt. You may have noticed.
I like salt. You may have noticed.

Part Three: Oh God, I Actually Have to Eat Fish

If you aren’t a person with anxiety, I literally don’t know how to explain the way trying new foods terrifies me. I don’t know exactly what it ties back to, but I have a physical terror response to trying new foods. I’ve been trying to challenge this lately, but I want you to understand: I was actually and physically scared to eat this fish.

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I sat down with my collection of fried meats, limp baked potatoes, and slightly-too-toasty garlic bread and tried to set down my sense of dread as I finally, for the first time since this one dude’s gross fish tacos when I was 21, ate fish.

It was actually pretty good!

It was interesting, because the texture was entirely unexpected. I don’t know what I anticipated, but it was softer than I’d think of when thinking of cooked meat. And while I enjoyed it, I also did have a weird sort of “Oh god there is fish in my body why is it swimming I know that it’s swimming!” thing that happens to me sometimes. So I think I’ll have to go slowly into my fish experiments. Maybe cook up some salmon or tuna next, I don’t know.

Addendum: Things I’d Do Differently

While I enjoyed the texture of the fish overall, it was bland. The chicken had the same problem, so I think it was at least in part due to having to rub a thick batter onto the meat. I’d consider seasoning my batter next time. I think I’ll also thin out the batter recipe a bit more, because seriously.

I would have actually fried my fries, and then just let them warm in the oven.

I would have remembered my actual camera and taken better photos.

Otherwise, I’m actually pretty pleased with this dinner. It met my expectations. I rule.


1. He didn’t say it like that. Poor guy was just looking forward to fried fish.
2. I’m really terrible about remembering to take meat out of the freezer in the morning/the night before. And if I’m cooking at August’s place, this is compounded by the lack of microwave — so I find myself going, “Ugh, fuck it, two chicken breasts is less than $3.”
3. Look, I wrote this post in its entirety a month ago — I have no idea what I was going to put here. Maybe a note about what The Merc is? I love it, actually — I go there for their bulk items and a handful of hippy things. Or when I don’t want to go to Dillons, which is further from my boyfriend’s apartment. But overall, I don’t find them realistic or affordable for my income bracket. Also, it was awkward for a long time because someone I used to hate a lot works there. Now it’s mostly just weird when we accidentally make eye contact.

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One thought on “Bitches Baking: I Fried Fish & Lived

  1. Pingback: Bitches Baking: Biscuits & Gravy « Cleverly Titled

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