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BackstoryThe best way to serve fish is the simplest, I think. This recipe is probably made as many ways as there are people who cook it - just consider it a guideline. The only real must-have in this recipe is fresh fish - nothing frozen or past its prime.
Okay, a few notes. I like peanut oil because it's healthy and it's got a high smoke point. That means you'll be less likely to set off the smoke alarm AND after you've finished cooking and the oil is cooled, you can filter it through a coffee filter and reuse it for another fry session or two. Coincidentally, if you take a look, you'll notice you've got most of the oil back. Proper frying actually doesn't let too much oil seep into the food.
The best way to judge oil temperature is with a fry thermometer or an instant-read thermometer. When frying the fish, listen for the change in sound to tell you when to pull the fish out. Upon putting the fish in, it'll fry fast and furious. After a couple of minutes, you'll notice the noise drops in pitch and is slightly less frequent - this is a sign that the moisture in the fish is almost gone, which means time to take the fish out. Any longer and the meat will be tough and the coating soggy. Don't let the fish sit on paper towels to drain. After about 30 seconds, the oil absorbed by the towels starts to seep back into the fish. And remember - you're working with hot, hot oil so BE CAREFUL.
Serve with wedges of lemon, some hot sauce, maybe a little tartar sauce, and a cold, cold beer.
- 1 1/2 lbs. rockfish (any whitefish with firm flesh - red snapper is good)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- black pepper and kosher salt
- seasoning (Old Bay, cayenne, etc.)
- peanut oil
- Cut the rockfish into chunks, approximately 1 1/2" by 3".
- Place them into a bowl and cover with buttermilk.
- Let the fish sit in the buttermilk for 15 minutes, or covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, pinch of salt and pepper, paprika and seasonings to taste.
- Mix to combine.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Place a flat rack into a sheet pan and place into the oven.
- Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat (cast iron is great for this).
- Pour in enough peanut oil to fill to 1 1/2".
- Preheat the oil to 375 degrees, taking care to keep the temperature even.
- Working in batches, lift the fish chunks from the buttermilk and place into the cornmeal mixture.
- Roll to coat and shake excess.
- Carefully place fish into the oil; don't crowd the pan.
- Fish will require 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness, until golden brown.
- Remove fish to draining rack in oven to keep warm.
- Allow the oil to come back up to temperature before repeating.
- Serve immediately.
- There - nothing simpler.