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Saturday, May 01, 2021

A Fishy Culinary Tradition


Whose idea was it to add breading or batter to fish? Fish is delicious when fried or seared, rich in flavour and texture. Breading it just masks the flavour and makes the whole dish feel much heavier than it should. 

Maybe I'm spoiled. Mom and Dad used to catch fresh fish from the pristine lakes of northern Manitoba and clean and fry the fillets right at the campground. The pickerel and trout they prepared in those days remains my favourite meal of all time. All fish since has paled in comparison. 

Even so, I can still enjoy fish if it's not wrapped in a casing of fried lard and butter. 

Fish: better without the batter. 

1 comment:

Jeff Shyluk said...

I asked the Internet the same question - why put batter on fish - and got a curious result: because we're eating it wrong. You're supposed to peel off the batter and throw it away. Battering fish allows you to fry it without searing. We are barbarians, as 2021 has proven, so we don't know any better. Frankly, I've had battered fish that is ambrosia with the batter and a pint. Batter is cheaper than fish, so I guess you could pad out a meal with it, otherwise you have to serve bigger portions of protein.

There's a similar method from medieval times called "coffin (or coffyn) crust", where you make a thick, durable crust out of rye flour, eggs, and a ton of salt or sugar - no water. You make a receptacle out of the coffin, throw your meal in, and seal it with more crust. You cook the thing in an oven or over fire and the ingredients cook safely and evenly sous-vide style. Then you remove the coffin from heat, peel it open, and throw away the cooked rind.

I've seen this done: it's spectacular and the juicy food inside is cooked perfectly because the heat is even so there's no scorching. I've heard there are coffins you can eat, sort of a variation on stew in a bread bowl.

You don't cook a lot, so I don't expect you to pick up coffin crust as a technique, but who knows, maybe it will become popular again. There are worse things you could do to food, and it does seem reasonably foolproof.