I never realized how much I liked the tradition of Friday Fish Fries in Wisconsin until I moved to Colorado. I began to crave them, mostly because I couldn’t find one in Colorado (not because I was addicted to the Friday Fish Fry). It has always been easier for me to not have something or not do something when I could have it or do it if I wanted to. I am sure I’m not alone there.
As a chef, I naturally cook my own fish, but still seem to stick to my Wisconsin roots, usually having fish on Fridays. That just seems to be when I feel like making it. Even in teaching, I seem to stick to this schedule often, as with my Friday Night Fun with Fish class at L’Academie de Cuisine.
During the twenty years I have been teaching cooking classes here in Madison and in Washington, DC, I have offered a numerous classes either all about fish and cooking fish, (including choosing fish, sustainability, cleaning, fileting, etc.) or using fish in one of the courses. People will pay to learn how to cook fish because they don’t want to mess it up. Part of this I feel is the cost of the fish. Very few people want to spend well over ten dollars a pound on something only to wreck it on the grill or even in the safety of their own kitchen. So they come to my fish cooking classes.
One of those Friday Night Fun with Fish classes had a menu that I couldn’t wait to teach. I had found a source for fresh walleye filets that had been caught, cleaned and shipped the day before the class. The class had sold out quickly. There are so many folks with Wisconsin connections in the DC area, so I just knew it had to be the allure of the Beer Battered Walleye. If you haven’t had walleye yet, it is an incredibly delicate and sweetly-flavored flakey white fish. It is worth putting on the list of things to try if you get a chance. Some folks prefer bluegills as their freshwater fish of choice, but that is for another fishing story.
The package of walleye filets was truly impressive and true to the classic Wisconsin Fish Fry. We coated it with a very light and airy beer batter and fried it to golden perfection. The potato we made that night is called Beer Battered Potatoes with Chives. In a nutshell, you make my famous heavenly mashed potatoes, fold in some chopped chives, form them into patties, chill, dip them in beer batter and deep fry.
As the class wound down, belts straining to be loosened and the warm mist of hot battered oil beginning to clear the air, I asked the class how many people had come for the walleye. No one raised a hand. Based on that response, I give you the recipe for their true favorite dish: Beer Battered Potatoes with Chives.
Beer Battered Potato with Chives
1 ½ cups sifted flour
2 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup beer, plus extra for thinning the batter and swilling of course
2-3 cups Heavenly Mashed Potatoes
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Oil for frying
Method: Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Combine the mashed potatoes and chives. Form into 12 even-sized patties. Dust the patties with the flour mixture. Place on a sheet tray and chill until very cold. Heat the oil for frying to 375 F. Add the lemon and beer to make a nice batter. Dip a chilled potato patty in the batter and carefully drop in to the oil. Cook until golden brown, turning as needed. Drain on paper towels. Eat hot or warm.
Heavenly Mashed Potatoes
Water to cover
½-1 cup heavy whipping cream
3-6 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Peel the potatoes and place them in a pot with water to cover. Rinse once. Cut the potatoes into equal size chunks and place them back in the pot with water to cover. Add a chef’s pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender when poked with a fork. Drain well and place back in the pot. Add the cream and butter. Mash well. Season with salt and pepper.