January 23rd, 2013
Fried fish does take a bad rap, mainly because of the creepiness of Filet-o-Fish, which I think we all agree is insanely scary. But that doesn’t mean people are avoiding fried fish in general.
Dietitian Diane Welland agrees. “In foodservice, customers love fried anything. What is cause for concern is the belief that fish, no matter how it’s prepared, is healthy.” Not always, adds the Springfield, Va.-based foodservice consultant.
A quick saute in minimal oil is one way to get crispness. And with pan-frying, fish cooks so fast it doesn’t sit in oil or have time to absorb fat.
“Pick leaner foods to fry. They absorb less fat than richer ones,” Welland says. Traditionally, fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are rarely fried. Lean choices include cod, turbot and haddock.
A veteran in the restaurant business, Jimmy Gherardi knows how popular fried foods are. Customers at J’s Fresh Seafood in Cincinnati won’t let the chef-owner take beer-batter fried shrimp off the menu, where it has resided for 17 years.
Attention to detail and proper frying techniques produce foods that aren’t threatening to low-fat diets, he insists. Gherardi is a stickler for calibrating commercial fryers, keeping oil hot (380F or higher), never overcrowding the basket (it causes temperature to drop so food absorbs more grease) and using good-quality oil that’s filtered daily.
Nick Musser combines a deep-fryer and oven to get a Thai-flavored red snapper that’s crisp and flavorful at Flying Fish in Seattle.
“I cut down on fat by deep-frying the fish quickly, then finishing the 2-pound snapper in the oven,” explains the chef de cuisine. A dusting of cornstarch promotes crispness without heaviness. And the radiant heat of the oven promotes even cooking.
“Customers don’t want to know how much butter and oil we use. They’re more concerned with the final product. People want to eat less but they still want french fries.”
Crusty Mustard-seed Fillets
Yield: 4 portions
Lemon 1 Cod or haddock, skinned, boned 4 6-oz. portions Bread crumbs (fresh baguette or sourdough) 3/4 cup Dried thyme 1 tsp. Kosher salt 2 tsp. White pepper 1 tsp. Cayenne pepper 1/4 tsp. Mustard seed, toasted, ground 1 tsp. Garlic-flavored vegetable spray as needed
1. Squeeze lemon juice over fillets; set aside 5 minutes. Pat dry with paper toweling.
2. Combine crumbs, herbs and spices in shallow bowl; dip each fillet on both sides.
3. Spray baking sheet. Arrange breaded fillets on sheet; mist each with spray.
4. Bake at 425F for 3 to 4 minutes; transfer to another oven; bake at 325F about 8 minutes or until done. (A broiler or salamander can also be used.)
5. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
Nutrition per serving: Calories, 219; Fat, 2g (10% from fat); Protein, 33g; Sodium, 1.4mg; Cholesterol, 74mg.
From 1,000 Low-fat Recipes by Terry B. Colson (Macmillan USA, 1998, $29.95)
Yield: 4 portions
Catfish fillets, or other firm white fish 1 1/3 lb. Nonfat milk 1/3 cup Cornflakes 1/2 cup Dry bread crumbs 1/2 cup Kosher salt 1/4 tsp. Nonstick spray as needed
1. Cut fish into pieces 3- to 4-in.-x-1/2in.; soak in milk.
2. In food processor finely chop cornflakes, bread crumbs and salt; set aside.
3. Coat baking sheet with nonstick spray.
4. Dip fish into crumbs; place on baking sheet. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
5. Bake at 425F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden and firm.
Nutrition per serving: Calories, 212; Protein 27g; Fat, 5g; Carbohydrates 13g; Sodium 335mg.
Better frying, leaner results:
 Remove all specks and particles of breading or batter from frying oil. They burn, impart off-flavors and break down oil.
 Good oil is important. When oil degrades, it smokes and imparts rancidity.
 Richer coatings, such as batters made with dairy products, absorb more fat. Breading, depending on composition, is often leaner.
 Fish ideal for frying: halibut, carp, rainbow trout, orange roughy, grouper, cod, catfish, haddock, pollock, certain shellfish and varieties of salmon.
 Reduce fat by using vegetable sprays instead of oil or butter.
 Low-fat washes include egg whites or egg substitute, fat-free or fat-reduced milk or buttermilk.
 Breading possibilities include cornmeal, bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, ground nuts (used sparingly–they’re high in fat) and coarsely crushed cereal. Try various grains or bread products, including rye buns and fat-free corn tortillas, for interesting textures and flavors.
 Seasonings for breading include grated cheese (Parmesan, Gruyere, Romano), cracked black peppercorns, lemon pepper, grated lemon rind, crab-boil seasoning, Italian-herb seasoning, garlic powder, pepper.
 Two slices of bread yield 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs.